Director of Psychiatric Services at the Ministry of Health Dr Rangi Fariu confirmed this when asked to comment on the number of mental disorder cases currently being referred to the Cook Islands High Court.
Fariu said he was responsible for assessing mental health cases that came through the court and he gave recommendations for the court and the parole board.
Most cases that appear in court are matters involving patients who refuse to take their medication or continue medical assessment by the hospital, he says.“In most cases they go home and refuse medication. They then get more access to drugs and alcohol and their mental illness makes their situation worse.
“Prison is the last resort. In some cases we try to treat these people at home, but often they have relapses and they refuse to take any more help.”
Fariu said there were three mental patients in the Arorangi prison who were receiving medication by injection, while others were undergoing talk therapy.
He said there were no special homes on Rarotonga for mental health patients but there was no accommodation problem as parents were still taking the responsibility of providing for their mentally ill children, who in some cases had reached adulthood.
“There is far more anxiety and depression in the Cook Islands, then at the extreme where we have severe mental illnesses like schizophrenia,” Dr Fariu said.
“For young children’s cases we have those who are suffering from autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and in youths and young adults, the main problem is sniffing petrol and varnish, too much alcohol and drugs,” Fariu said.
Some people were becoming stressed with the number of mortgages they had committed theselves to, which had resulted in them having to juggle three to four jobs a day, leaving no time to rest or for family.
The number of cases involving stress was increasing due to the demands of modern life, he said.
He would not reveal any figures however, saying all he had was “raw” data.
Meanwhile, based on data from the WHO World Mental Health Survey in 2014 (24), global prevalence rates of 13 per cent (for mild to severe mental disorders), three per cent (for severe mental disorders) and 10 per cent (for moderate to mild mental disorders) are used to estimate the number of adults with mental disorders in the Cook Islands alone.
Using these estimates it was calculated that: 437 people suffered from severe mental disorders (three per cent of the total adult population over the age of 15 of 14,572, 1,457 people suffered from moderate to mild mental disorders (10 per cent of the total adult population of 14,572) in the Cook islands, and a total of 1,894 adults suffered mental disorders of all severities (mild to severe) (13 per cent of the total adult population of 14,572).
If it is assumed that all of the 1,544 people who received treatment had all severities (mild to severe) of mental disorders then the estimated treatment rate for all severities of mental disorders would be 81.5 per cent (1,544 of the 1,894 people estimated to have all severities of mental disorders), resulting in a treatment gap of only 18.5 per cent.