When there is a need for legislative reform in an area of great urgency and importance, there is a feeling of positivity in the greater aim of helping human life.

    Further to that, if there have been individuals or practitioners in such a field who have gone miles due to their passion and interest in helping those who are affected, it is worth sharing such stories.

    Mr. Mawa Ezekiel Joel is the sole mind care practitioner at the Northern Provincial Hospital. With so much passion for helping mental health clients, Mr. Ezekiel was part of the Vanuatu Law Reform Commission Sanma team to undertake consultations in Mental Health in Malo, South Santo, and South East and East Santo. His engagement with the consultation team is to share his experience and also to inform the people about mind care services available at the Northern Provincial Hospital.

    Mr. Joel was still in secondary school when he lost a sister through illness. That was the turning point in Mr. Joel’s life. He made up his mind that he would be a health practitioner.

    When he left secondary school, he had a stint at teaching for six (6) months. It was during his teaching years that he had the opportunity to apply to the Vanuatu Nursing School.

    After completing Nursing Skills, he returned to the Northern Provincial Hospital and had regular rounds in each ward. When he ended up at the medical ward, he was the only male officer and when mental health patients were brought in, he was the only officer who showed interest in treating mental health patients that was the starting point of Mr. Joel’s passion to treat and help mental health clients.

    Mr. Joel has attended Mind Care trainings in New Zealand, and Australia and even had the opportunity to attain a certificate in Mind Care from the Fiji National University. There were also visits from doctors and nurses from Australia who were very helpful in skills transfer and in-house training. When questioned on whether he is still eager to go for further training, he stated that someone is assisting him at the moment, and if there is another opportunity, he will go for it.

    Mr. Joel is the only mind care officer in Luganville. Most of the time he has to close the unit to attend to calls for assessment outside the hospital. He calls on interested individuals including practicing health workers to venture into mind care practitioners.
    The second challenge is the lack of funding for the Mind Care Unit to be able to carry out surveillance and to have an idea of how many mind care clients are nearby, to Luganville, and to reach out to Sanma province.
    The third challenge is the lack of facilities and he hopes that the consultation and the review would kickstart the need to have a bigger unit in Luganville as the Northern Provincial Hospital has space to build such a facility in the future

    Success Stories:
    Throughout the consultations in Sanma province, Mr. Joel shared success stories of mind care clients within Luganville and Sanma province, these include a nurse, a police officer, a mother, and even individuals. When he questioned people during the consultations, most believed that these individuals were dead. When they were told that these individuals were clients of the Mind Care Unit and had recovered, most people were surprised. He stated that in treating mind care clients, the most important elements are family support and community support.

    Future outlook:
    Mr. Joel encourages young individuals to study in mind care or related fields of study as it is one of the specialized areas that requires more human resources. He stressed that if you choose to study in mind care, you will surely have employment opportunities in the future.

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