Needs Assessment for the Mental Disability Advocacy Program

This study addresses the basic issues of psychiatric aid and argues for the necessity of de-institutionalisation and prevention of patient institutionalisation. The goal of the study was to establish the potential role of the soros Foundation - Latvia (SFL) in field of psychiatric aid. One of the basic areas of SFL activities is institutional support (mental hospitals and social care homes) for the creation of alternative care that would ensure client care as close as possible to their place of residence and in a patient-friendly environment. As a result of study, its authorwrote a strategic three year programme and attracted financing of SFL and Open Society Institute (New York). Since May 2001 this programme is being implemented by the Latvian Centre for Human Rights and Ethnic Studies.

Mentally ill patients and the mentally retarded are one of the most vulnerable groups of society and, because of stigmatisation, they face difficulties in advocating their rights and interests. Usually patients are isolated from society because of being located in mental hospitals or specialised social care homes for the mentally disabled. For many years, the isolation of mentally ill patients has been common practice in the countries of former USSR and in European countries. Isolation was implemented either by the patients’ placement in mental hospitals or social care homes, where they were subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment, or by keeping patients at home, where they were again isolated because of the lack of community based services and the negative attitudes of society. Unfortunately, there is a lack of well-trained staff who could take care of mentally ill persons. Because of this, family members who take care of a patient have to stay home, they cannot have regular jobs and it affects the quality of life and the budget of such families.


Although our aim is to achieve an open civil society, a substantial part of this group is still isolated at the present time. The continuos locking away of patients’ in institutions does not develop independent living skills, which are necessary for normal functioning in a society. Institutional care frequently seriously infringes upon human rights, thus mentally ill and mentally retarded persons regularly suffer from stigmatisation and discrimination. Therefore, the only solution is the mentally ill patients’ inclusion and reintegration into the society by introducing alternative forms of health care.

Riga, 2000
Author: Ieva Leimane
Commissioned by: the Soros Foundation - Latvia

Study was first published by the Public Policy Site POLICY.LV at



Published: 2004-01-13