Hospital Cares for People Suffering With ‘Stigma’ of Mental Illness

Psychiatric Hospital of the Cross, located in Jal Al Dib, north of Beirut, houses 800 patients, yet receives only a handful of visitors on any given day.

“Many times, the family will leave their sick with us and they give us a wrong address or phone number,” so they cannot be reached, explains Sister Jeannette Abou Abdallah, the hospital’s director.

Many current patients were abandoned at the hospital as children and have spent their entire lifetime at the facility, she adds.

Founded in 1926 and run by the Franciscan Sisters of the Cross, it is the only such facility in Lebanon that treats mental illness, which remains a huge stigma in Lebanese society.

The country’s ongoing socioeconomic crisis has added to the difficulties families face in caring for a family member with special needs at home, increasing the incidence of abandonment to the hospital, says Sister Abdallah. In these cases, leaving a family member at the hospital is an act of desperation and a last resort.

However, the hospital has reached a breaking point as well. For the past year, Lebanon’s ministry of health has not issued transfer payments for 75 percent of the hospital’s inpatients who are covered by the public health care system.

“Even if the ministry paid its dues, the 162,000 Lebanese pounds per patient per day are not enough to cover medicine, water, electricity,” the sister continues.

The crisis has forced the sisters to cut back, suspending the maintenance of the building, reducing the number of beds from 1,000 to 800, and closing their dispensary for outpatients.

“We stopped our dispensary because we struggle to gather the medicine even for the sick who are in the hospital,” she says.

Lebanon has experienced intermittent drug shortages because the devaluation of the Lebanese pound has complicated imports.

Although its staff has shrunk from 360 to 254 since Lebanon’s financial crisis began, the hospital still struggles to pay employee salaries each month. This is due in large part to the funds of the religious women’s congregation — along with the funds of most people in the country — being trapped in the banks. Eventually, all of the juggling of financial resources to try to make ends meet will have to end.

“We take from the reserves, but the reserves will finish in a short period,” she says. “If the state doesn’t pay their debt to us, maybe we will have to close. “Then, where will the sick go?”

Read more about how Lebanon’s economic situation is impacting the most vulnerable in “Sinking Deeper” in the March 2023 edition of ONE.

Alicia Medina is a Spanish freelance journalist based in Lebanon since 2018. Her work has appeared in international media outlets like News Deeply, Syria Direct, Syria Untold, DW or Radio France International.

Recent Posts

Get to know us and stay informed about the impact your support makes.

Nous constatons que votre préférence linguistique est le français.
Voudriez-vous être redirigé sur notre site de langue française?

Oui! Je veux y accéder.

Hemos notado que su idioma preferido es español. ¿Le gustaría ver la página de Asociación Católica para el Bienestar del Cercano Oriente en español?

Vee página en español