TAMI advises on care techniques for mentally ill patients

The China Post news staff

People with family members or friends suffering from mental disorders can use certain tactics to make sure that the patients regularly take medications for their health and safety, medical experts say. There are presently about 110,000 mentally ill persons throughout Taiwan, but 50 percent of them refuse to take medications following treatment, according to a survey of the Alliance for the Mentally Ill of R.O.C.,Taiwan (TAMI).

Dr. Huang Ming-wei, chairman of the TAMI and director at the department treating mentally ill patients at the Chiayi Veterans General Hospital, said it is necessary for schizophrenia patients to regularly take prescribed medicines to control the illness. But about half of the diagnosed patients have failed to take medicines on a daily basis. Patients who fail to take medicines for 10 days within a period of one year double the risk of recurrence of symptoms and deterioration of their mental conditions. The chances of a recurrence normally increase four-fold when a patient skip medicines for 30 days in one year, he said. Most patients reject taking medicines mainly because of side effects of certain pharmaceuticals and the fear of being labeled as mentally ill.

Since half of the mentally ill patients in Taiwan live with families, especially with parents, the family members should map out strategies to encourage or coax the patients to take medications on a regular basis. He suggested that patients resisting pharmaceuticals take injections that can last for one full month. Major medical centers around Taiwan started offering such injections since 1980 with medical costs covered by the National Health Insurance (NHI) program. Chen Shuan-chia, deputy secretary general of the nonprofit TAMI, said more than 70 percent of patients with mental disorders in Taiwan resist taking medications while 50 percent of the total manage to get away with it. She stressed that one of the most important tasks of taking care of the patients is to find ways to let them take the medicines.

The easiest ways include grinding the tablets into powder or mixing the powder with fruit juices, noodles, or soups for the patients, she said. Chen said the TAMI provides techniques to take better care of patients and has support groups to share experiences. She welcomes families in need of such assistance to contact the group at Tel: (02) 2747-7605 or visit the TAMI’s website: www.tamiroc.org.tw. The TAMI, founded in 1997, is a non-governmental, non-profit, grassroots, and self-help organization of consumers, families, and friends of people with mental illnesses.

The TAMI currently has 21 group members from local organizations of 20 cities and counties in Taiwan with more than 3,000 members who have made great effort to help people with severe mental illnesses. The TAMI also provides education and training programs related to mental disorders.