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A visit to Mt Carmel Hospital, where hope and anxiety meet

Let's imagine a scenario where a person escaping violence finds himself alone in a foreign country for the first time. The language is new, the culture is different, the administrative services are locked, their social status is uncertain. Unless one has a strong mind, it is easy for that person to lose his or her mental balance.

A façade of Mt Carmel Hospital. Currently around 200 patients are being followed.

This is the story of many African immigrants, residents at Mt. Carmel Hospital. According to the nurses in charge of the follow-up of the patients, other causes of internment are the excess of illicit substances, hidden traumas in the case of migrants who have made the journey through the Sahara desert.

When a person is interned as a result of a court sentence, it depends on the report of the experts who decide whether he or she is fit to return to society. There is a great risk of deterioration of the patient if, once recovered, the person is not allowed to regain his or her freedom immediately due to administrative delays. The hospital thus loses its role as a humanitarian service and is seen by the patient as a prison.

At Mont Carmel Hospital, health care staff report that bureaucratic red tape delays the reintegration of people who have regained enough stability to return to a life in the community.

In the case of repatriations of Africans from the so-called safe countries, the procedures are extremely complicated because the medical facilities in the countries of origin are not equipped to receive patients requiring permanent follow-up. They are therefore kept on site and shuttle back and forth between semi-cure and relapse.

A mental imbalance is never completely cured, the nurses explain. It is a healthy lifestyle and the respect of medical prescriptions that guarantee a long mental stability. "It is like building a car, you need a road", says a nurse.

The lack of contact with the family, as is the case for many African migrants who stay there, is compensated by recreational activities organized in the hospital.

During our visit on Thursday, Dec. 30, we attended the briefing of a yoga session. Nevertheless, prevention is better than cure, said a nurse, referring to the African community in which dangerous drugs causing mental disorders are said to circulate.

A home visit service is now in place to help patients reintegrate more effectively into the community. Approximately 200 patients are currently being followed by the hospital.

The visit organized by the German Embassy in Malta in collaboration with Andreas Gemeinde Church Valletta was done with the aim of bringing comfort and gifts to a small group. African food and other gifts were distributed.

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