President opens wellness centre


President Michel unveils the plaque marking the inauguration of the centre

The presentations, often moving and charged with emotion, were by a group of young men and women who have voluntarily accepted to and are currently following treatment at the centre as well as other clients with some form of mental disorders.

Among the guests attending the ceremony were President James Michel who together with Health Minister Mitcy Larue unveiled the plaque and cut the ribbon to open the centre.

Other guests present included former President James Mancham, Vice-President Danny Faure, the Speaker of the National Assembly Dr Patrick Herminie, a representative of His Excellency Sheikh Al Sheikh, Sulliman Al-Dakhail, Chief Justice Fredrick Egonda-Ntende, Designated Minister Vincent Meriton, other ministers, MNAs and parents of the clients at the centre.

The R24 million centre, which is catering for clients with all sorts of mental problems and has a detoxification unit, started accepting clients for treatment in August last year.

Guests applaud a presentation by the inmates

Work on the centre, which has been built where the former Psychiatric Hospital was at Les Cannelles, Anse Royale, started soon after the former facilities were demolished in 2006. 
Among the different facilities at the Wellness Centre are the addictology centre and the psychiatric centre.

At present, there are over 20 clients following treatment for heroin addiction at the addictology centre. Three specialists in mental health care – Marie-Annette Jean Baptiste, Jeff Confiance and Richard Bibi – oversee the running of this centre.

Addressing guests at the opening ceremony yesterday, Minister Larue expressed “deep gratitude to President James Michel for his unrelenting support for this project” noting that his “presence at the official opening ceremony is testimony to the importance he gives to this venture”.

Minister Larue also expressed her sincere appreciation to “our benefactor His Excellency Sheikh Al Sheikh, without whose financial support this project would not have been possible”.
Minister Larue noted that like many other countries, mental health problem is one of the most serious health challenges Seychelles faces.

Minister Larue said that even though a lot has been done to improve infrastructure and programmes to better address the multitude of conditions that affect the physical health of our people she admitted that “unfortunately, our mental health services have been one of the Cinderella services especially as with regard to the infrastructure”.

“This new facility has long been needed and I have no doubt that it will contribute to the enhancement of care we give to the people who will be treated here,” said the Minister.

Reflecting on the name adopted for the centre, Minister Larue said many would recall the institution which existed in this compound as the Psychiatric Hospital. She expressed joy that we have moved away from the use of the word psychiatric to describe an institution, as we embrace mental health in its widest sense.

She said the centre will be a resource where individuals, families and the community will be able to find support, hope, information and practical services to address their mental wellness needs.
“Today’s event is a reflection of the great changes that are taking place in the delivery of mental health services,” said the minister.

Furthermore, she said “the perception of an institutional style mental health service, standing in isolation and closed from the rest of the community is thankfully a thing of the past as we move the delivery of services from a predominantly hospital-based to a community-based service. Today marks a new beginning for mental health in Seychelles. It is the birth of a new era of care which will be based on integrated, client-centered management and treatment.”

A communiqué issued by State House following the opening quoted President Michel as saying “this centre will be an important component of our social renaissance programme, where those afflicted with mental health and addiction difficulties will be able to receive specialised treatment and support in a new and stable environment. This is another step forward for our health services as we provide new services for the care of the physical and mental wellbeing of our nation".

President Michel and guests are taken on a  tour of the facilities

The point was further emphasised by the consultant in charge of mental health services Dr Daniella Malulu in an overview of mental health in Seychelles.

Dr Malulu pointed out in her presentation that there is currently some 900 people suffering from severe mental disorder and 9,000 others suffering from mild mental disorder.

She stressed in her presentation that the creation of available, accessible, affordable and acceptable mental health facilities in Seychelles can only be accomplished through a major policy shift which is  breaking away from hospital-based psychiatric treatment towards integrating mental health into primary health care services and the community.

There was also a presentation on the history of mental health in Seychelles by mental health and cancer programme manager Gina Michel.

Following the opening of the centre after President Michel had unveiled the plaque, cut the ribbon, the tolling of the bell situated at the entrance of the centre by Minister Larue and the blessings by Pastor Georges of the Pentecostal Assembly of Seychelles, Father David Alcindor of the Catholic and Reverend Christine Benoit of the Anglican church, the guests were led on a guided tour of all the facilities by Dr Malulu. He also viewed an exhibition on mental health facilities and services.

Ministers Larue and Christian Lionnet of Land Use and Housing together with clients afterwards planted trees in the compound of the centre. 

A partial view of the centre