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We Need Fresh Air – Khoni Psychiatric Institution Requires Attention

24.10.2007
At 6 o’clock in the evening, next to the on-duty doctor, a guard and some administrative personnel stay at the institution. There is silence. Everybody is busy with their specific tasks. Dinner and walking are over and all of the staff and patients spend their time differently before going to bed.

The National Centre of Compulsory Treatment and Khoni Psychiatric Clinic, named after Naneishvili, have 450 patients who are isolated from society and they really miss communicating with people.

“Here I have a lot of neighbors and friends, but I really want to have contact with other people. I want to tell them my story and hear what they think about it. I have been here for a 100 years and now I am bored” - whispers Mariam who is a shy 60-year-old woman, but still looks pretty and obstinately repeats that her age is “20.” She tries to share her pains with us. She likes guests. Mariam apologizes to her friends and people around her and claims that she has does not have enough contact with people. “I want someone to listen to me until the end, I want to be needed and I want my home.”

To visit this place is hard, but once you take this first step you become interested in the details. Here they have their own rules. The departments for women and men are separated by one floor and by bars. People living here do not like the bars because they cannot open them. They even do not like their guards to whom they stick their tongues out and then apologize for it.

The hall is large and dimly lit, the air is heavy, people have different moods. The questions and answers are long and a little tiresome. The answers to the following questions: How are you? Do you need anything? are very sad. Some of them feel good others feel worse. But some of them prefer to feel bad, but be with their family.

“I have three children, they are perfect but do not love their mother. I do not know where I made mistakes during their upbringing, but no worries my future children will love me. The bad thing is that our children are interested only in money and material things. They do not care about our feelings or fate. Nobody visits or phones us. It is a hell and cannot be considered life,”- Mrs. Mariam wipes her tears from her eyes with the sleeve of her dress and apologizes for bothering us with her sad story.

But Inga freely talks about her problems. In this case it is not necessary ask questions as everything goes smoothly. The story seems to go on forever. The young woman sometimes quarrels, sometimes laughs hysterically and then remembers that noise is not allowed here. Inga holds her pillow tight as if she is afraid of losing it. She puts her finger on her lips and asks us not to make noise or the child may wake up. In spite of their insistence and wish for us to stay we leave them temporarily and go to the #3 department for compulsory treatment. Here all the patients are men. The large amount of beds located in the hall tells us that this department is overcrowded. But it seems these people like it and do not object.

“We have to know each other. I am Tariel, a master of phones. I can take a phone apart and then repair it again in such a way that you cannot distinguish this phone from a new one. Before, I was working in Kutaisi and can work even now if you hire me. I know everything about phones.”-Our introduction starts with the promotion of personal abilities and we cannot believe the number of people filling the corridor.

“Visit us often and listen to our stories: What do we eat? What makes us happy? Even pigs do not eat the food they give us here. That is why we are starving.”- says Shota Beridze in a candid manner, not being able to be stopped by others.

“Everything is a lie. My grandmother was a specialist in this field and I think because of this I have right to express my own ideas. Our menu is always delicious and “cool”. “We will not have such good food at home.” Bidzina Mchedlishvili has other requirements: How long have they been treating me here? - Bidzina asks this question quite often but still has not found an answer. And the treatment consists of one pill of diazepam every night before going to sleep.

“We have the ambition to be a modern centre and I cannot see anything wrong in some patients not liking our approaches,”- says Soso Sulukhia, the doctor on call. -“We have put up special complaint boxes and these people can deposit their complaints in them.

The main complaint is the everlasting course of treatment. The patients miss their own homes and family members. They also want to breath in some fresh air. And they have one request to everyone: “To visit them quite often and ask them to tell their stories”.

Shorena Kakabadze, Kutaisi.

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