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August 2011
News from Royal College of Psychiatrists
My Experience in The Solomon Islands - A Brief Report

Introduction

In the year 2010, I worked for three months in the Solomon Islands as the Royal College of Psychiatry (UK) and WHO volunteer.  

The Solomon Islands comprises nearly 1,000 islands with a total land area of 304000 kilometre square spread over a sea area of about 1.5 million square kilometres.  The population of the Solomon Islands was estimated to be just over 580,000 in 2008.  The majority of the people are Melanesian and over 83% of the population live in rural areas.

The three month placement to the Solomon Islands had 5 main aspects;

  1. clinical skills
  2. management skills
  3. to develop WHO model for CMHT
  4. to reduce relapse and re-admission rates and 
  5. to improve Mental Health Services to the local prison.  

In addition to the above I was also asked to teach the senior psychiatric nurses.

I also spent one week at the country’s second largest psychiatric hospital which is located near Auki, the capital of Malaita province.  This hospital has 20 in patient beds and there are no psychiatrist and the services are nurse led and the hospital is about thirty minutes flying time from capital.  During my placement the following documents were developed, CMHT patient allocation form, relapse signature and prevention, CMHT operational policies and prison referral form.

The Mental Health Services in the Solomon Islands faces a huge challenge, there is an acute shortage of trained psychiatrist (with just one Consultant Psychiatrist) and mental health nurses.  The total number of posts in the Mental Health Services is 55 and there are several vacancies at various grades.  

Epidemiological data about mental disorder is lacking, however according to a 2006 national disability survey of 14,403 people, 5.3% had a general intellectual disability, 3.5% had dementia, 2.8% had a secondary disorder and 3.9% had epilepsy.  Self harm is a new but growing problem.  In 2004 international self poisoning was one of the 10 leading causes of death recorded at the National Referral Hospital, Honiara.  In the Solomon Islands, mental health services have come a long way in recent years, but the harsh social economic environment is now slowing their development.  

This experience was wonderful and a profoundly creative.  During this period I gained valuable experience and also developed my skills to manage with limited resources.

Ashok N. Singh
Department of Psychiatry
Pilgrim Hospital
Sibsey Road
Boston
PE21 9QS

Ashok.Singh@LPFT.nhs.uk

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