Vietnam will offer better medical treatment and further support to people with mental health problems as part of a national programme lately ratified by the Government.

The programme on community-based social assistance and rehabilitation of people with mental disorders during 2011-20 was launched in the central city of Da Nang on Nov. 27.

Deputy Minister of Labour, War Invalids and Social Affairs Nguyen Trong Dam said it would cost 8.38 trillion VND (400 million USD) to carry out the programme, with a larger portion to provide facilities and equipment for 50 health care and treatment centres.

"We plan to set up centres in six regions, each of them can provide treatment to between 300 and 500 patients," he said.

Minister Pham Thi Hai Chuyen told the meeting that Vietnam provides regular treatment to 10,000 people with severe mental disorders at 26 facilities across the country.

The Government also provides an allowance of 200,000 VND (9.5 USD) each month for mental patients.
"However, we are only able to help 5 percent of those in need due to lack of staff and facilities," she said.

The minister stressed that Vietnam would struggle with the rising number of people with mental disorders in the rapid processes of mordenisation and industrialisation.

She also called for cooperation from relevant ministries, the community and international organisations to help people with mental illnesses.

The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) deputy representative in Vietnam Jesper Moller said: "People are living with less stable, more stressful and isolated lives in many countries including Vietnam.
However, public services in Vietnam are still working on decade-old models when people's lives were shorter and the threats we faced were mostly physical."

"The programme marks a historic benchmark for Vietnam when leaders, experts, representatives from ministries, universities and organisations can discuss solutions to establish an effective community-based mental heath system in Vietnam ," Jesper said.

He said that a large number of Vietnamese women and children are affected by mental issues including educational stress and behavioural disorders among kids, while many women suffer from prenatal depression and anxiety.

"UNICEF, with other partners, is supporting the Government to explore effective solutions to address this issue."

The director of the medical service administration under the Ministry of Heath, Luong Ngoc Khue, said Vietnam has 33 mental hospitals with 3,000 psychiatrists and nurses, but the number is far from meeting the actual need of an increasing number of mental patients.

Participants also discussed caring for people with mental disorders during the two-day conference.-VNA