Breaking the pattern of unethical healthcare: MHTC-H

This article is available for historical purposes and may be out of date.

Ethical treatment of patients and their right to fair treatment are standards medical professionals value globally.  The significance of ethical standards is essential to all medical and nurse training courses.  Mental illness worldwide has had a long road in being properly understood and treated.  Afghanistan is no exception, and mental illness frequently is misdiagnosed, misunderstood, and mistreated.

Mental Health Training Centre-Herat (MHTC-H) focuses on training medical professionals, doctors, nurses, midwives, and other allied health professionals in the proper treatment of mentally ill patients.

Below is a story shared by a nursing student that emphasizes the importance of this training:

As a student nurse, I received training at various clinics. One day a woman came to one of these clinics.  She had attacks resembling epileptic seizures. Forced to marry a man she didn’t like, her life was full of daily conflicts and arguments.  At the clinic, a placebo treatment was ordered for her. The doctors and nurses at the clinic used this for all patients like her. The plan was to inject sterile water into her, and during the injection she would be told it was a powerful drug she was being given. Then she would be informed that it was the only treatment for her condition, but it caused very adverse side effects.

She would be told, “If we inject all of this medicine you will not only lose all your hair, but you will become infertile unless you being to run.  If you run as fast as you can, all the medicine’s adverse side effects will disappear.”

That day we injected the medicine, but she did not react. She did nothing. In previous cases, many women after hearing our words had started to run; therefore, we diagnosed them as pretending.

Her family informed us, she had been taken to see many doctors.  Every single doctor had used a placebo treatment on her, but her condition remained the same.

While, I was taking the Mental Health training at MHTC-Herat, I learned the correct treatment for a patient having this kind of attack, psychogenic seizures.  First I should talk to them, listen to their worries and have them express their emotions.  Then I should teach the family the behavior is due to stressful situations in the patient’s life. These patient really need help and they are not pretending.

Mental Health Training Centre conducted trainings in the Western part of Afghanistan for over 22 doctors in Primary Health care, 30 Nurses and Midwives, and 12 Community Health Supervisors.  In addition to this they had 84 medical students, 38 doctor’s assistants, 27 midwifery students, and 26 nursing students complete a practicum at the MHTC-H.

Read more about the IAM Mental Health Programme here.