While a lot of progress has been made in the area of mental health in Papua New Guinea over the last five years, the doctor in charge of the only psychiatric hospital in Papua New Guinea says more community awareness is needed.
Director of the Laloki Psychiatric Hospital, Dr. Ludwig Nanawar, said many Papua New Guineans still do not understand that there are mental health problems prevalent in communities but remain unrecognized.
“Anxiety and depression is very common. This is not the short term worry We’re talking about. If anxiety extends for more than two weeks, it is a serious problem.”
Dr. Nanawar, made the switch to mental health in 2010 and then took up the post of Hospital Director.
Being the only hospital in the country, there are significant challenges that exist.
One of primary concern is the amount of funding coming from the National Government.
“We have been promised funding but we have not received it to date,” he says. “The intention is there.”
Several years ago, Laloki was in an appalling state. The lack of direction and funding nearly crippled the vital service. Patients, were locked in dirty cells and the hospital had serious health and sanitation concerns.
Dr. Nanawar says small improvements are being made despite the huge challenges. One of the important steps has been to open up a channel of communication with the media.
“One of the things we have done is to open up, so people see what we do here.”
Mental health remains relatively low on the list of Papua New Guinea’s health priorities.
There are only eight mental health specialists in Papua New Guinea with an ever growing need for more services.