Mental Health activists in Grenada are calling for an independent investigation into allegations of rape made by a female patient at the Mt Gay Psychiatric Hospital.
Head of the Grenada Association of Professional Social Workers and Friends of the Mentally Ill, Ann Greaves said they are appalled by the recent allegations which suggest that persons who are tasked with providing care and treatment to the vulnerable could betray the trust placed in them.
It was reported over the weekend that the patient, who has been undergoing treatment at the psychiatric hospital alleged that she was sexually assaulted by two male members of staff.
Social Development Minister Delma Thomas has since announced that the two staff members have been sent on leave and an investigation is being conducted by the Public Service Commission (PSC).
The police also investigated the matter, which had been reported late last year and a report was sent to State officials.
However, Greaves believes that an independent body should lead the investigation and also given the task to come up with recommendations for improving the way vulnerable and mentally ill people are treated.
“We would really like to see an independent investigation to look into this matter and to make recommendations because too often things happen at the Unit (Mental Hospital) which is not dealt with properly,” she said.
She recalled that years ago another female patient did become pregnant after being raped at the facility and a male patient was also killed at the hospital but none of these incidents resulted in any accounting to the public or change in policies to protect patients.
In this recent case it has been reported that the young woman reported the rape to the head of the hospital but that no action was taken.
Greaves who has spent most of her life working with the vulnerable and advocating for their human rights, says there must be a complaint mechanism at the mental hospital and that all patients entering the facility must be informed of how they can make complaints.
She has also renewed her call for Grenada to pass a Mental Health Act in the Parliament saying that, “It is a shame that we do not have a mental health Act and the 2009 draft is sitting on a shelf somewhere gathering dust.”
She is suggesting that even if it is not practical to enact the entire legislation which was drafted twelve years ago, then the most pertinent parts should be implemented to better protect the human rights of Grenada’s mentally ill people.
“It is not about apportioning blame but we need to learn from these situations that occur,” she added.
Greaves also notes that proper procedures not only protect patients but also staff.
She pointed out that if there was a procedure that prevents male staff from interacting with female patients then it would be difficult for someone to be wrongfully implicated.
Continuous training and education for those who work in psychiatric care as well as others such as police officers who become involved when there is an incident involving a mentally ill person is also an important aspect that the two organisations believes is needed.
Greaves said assault of mentally ill and vulnerable people in institutions is not unusual but an effort must be made to protect them.
“This is something that happens with vulnerable people. It is unfortunate that staff who have to take care of them breach that trust.”
However she says the recent complaint ought not to be dismissed just because the allegation that the young woman was impregnated turned out to be false after the police investigated.
“There is a lot of stigma here about the mentally ill and it is a shame that people are thinking that if she is not pregnant then nothing happened.
“This is a complaint that was made by an individual and she has rights. There must be complaint mechanisms in place,” she remarked.
Greaves says a thorough, independent investigation must be done and the incident should not be swept under the rug as has happened in the past.
“We want the best outcome. If it is a false accusation we need to clear the names of the people and if it is true we need to put measures in place to make sure it never happens again,” she said.
She said allegations made by people who are mentally challenged may not always be true but it must be thoroughly investigated.