Patients suffer with no Mental Asylum

MoH says it has no facilities to keep them and wants the public to build one

When Kali Maya in her 30s was brought to Thimphu police station on the evening of 18th October, the police were in a dilemma as to how to deal with her, where to send her and what to do with her. Neither could they detain nor release her.

Kali Maya is mentally unsound and wanders from place to place with nowhere to go.

This is the second time she is in the police station. As an interim measure and with no option, she was put inside the recreation room of the Woman and Child Protection Unit (WCPU).

In an interview with The Bhutanese, The officer-in-charge (OC) of WCPU said like her, they encounter such cases time to time. When encountered with such cases like Kali Maya, who are mentally unsound and have nowhere to go, the police say they are confused.

“Even if we send her to hospital for treatment, after some time, the hospital sends her back to us. Where do we keep such cases? Our duty is to combat and prevent crime but not to look after drunkards and mentally unsound cases,” said the WCPU OC.

Citing an example, the officer said “A other woman, in her 30s, with no one in the capital was sleeping at one corner of the town. A man nearly raped her but fortunately, our police personnel at the scene brought her to the police station. The next morning when I asked about her relatives, she said she has no one and had nowhere to go. We had to let her go, since we did not know where to keep her or send”.

Till date four such cases were reported with the WCPU.

Absence of a mental asylum or orphanage house has been a major factor for such people to wander, suffer and create difficulties for the police.

Director General of Department of Medical Services (DMS) with the Ministry of Health, Dr. Ugen Dophu, said “it is not the job of police to look after mental people. They have enough crimes to handle but there should be some organization to look after such people. If they are sick, bring them to us, we will treat them for days and months, then after that basically they need care, social support and some occupational talents. Somebody should take that up. This is the issue but nobody is looking at that aspect”.

“As of now ministry does not have any plan to come up with mental asylum but we will welcome and support those who wants to start a shelter for such people,” the doctor said.

There might be more number of such cases but only few such cases get reported while many remain unreported, the WCPU OC said.

The organization RENEW deals only with domestic violence-affected women and children and the NCWC do es not have shelters to keep such people while the hospital does not have a mental asylum to accommodate such people.

“The Ministry has too many things to do ourselves. We are struggling ourselves to look after the patients. When people are sick, bring them to us, we will do the initial part. In cases of mental people, we cannot take them in. Don’t push that aspect to health. We already have so much to bite and chew, we should not over do, it” Dr. Ugyen Dophu said.

Once the health ministry had planned to open a mental asylum in Bumthang but the plan was dropped due to various reasons.

Till date no one has approached the ministry to open an asylum for such people.

So while authorities mull over factors, weigh the situations and come to terms to appraise ‘who should build a mental asylum?’ people like Kali Maya will suffer and wander.


Chencho Dema / Thimphu

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  1. a fraction of GNH centre budget should be sufficient to make a center for the likes of Kali Maya. Even the part of the land could be used.

  2. i totally agree with layap’s comment!

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