the center's TV room, Visitors can watch television,
play cards or nardi or just socialize.
A small white building in the city is filled
with natural light and on its open roof plants,
including some vegetables, have begun to sprout.
Inside the building's rooms there is calm and
the normal mix of joy and worry.
Not so long ago - and maybe even now for some
- it would seem impossible that this could be
an Armenian center for patients with mental disorders.
The Mental Health Foundation's Day Center is
a new page in the history of medicine in Armenia.
It was opened three years ago with assistance
from the Open Society Institute (OSI) and aims
to give this area of health care a level of attention
it has never received here.
Historically, patients suffering mental health
problems were warehoused by a society that treated
such ailments as curses rather than illness. That
the center is an out-patient facility is especially
"Hospitals where people are treated, are
functioning in Armenia but what happens to people
after treatment is not clear," says program
manager Karen Nahapetyan. "Many of them cannot
adapt to life outside hospitals and return again.
Our goal is to found communal programs and help
people with such problems become a part of the
community in their 'after hospital' life -- to
help them feel self-sufficient as far as possible."
Special groups and training sessions are offered
for that very purpose. Five days a week visitors
are offered various skills-training classes as
well as cultural events and common socializing.
The center offers a sitting room, a library a
TV room. But it is the art therapy classes that
have greatest response. During those sessions
visitors' thoughts and concerns, hopes and joys
are transfused to paper and clay.
manager Karen Nahapetyan says their main goal
is to help people with mental problems not
to feel outsiders when they're back in the
"By means of painting and pottery visitors
try to overcome everything that had been accumulated,"
says art therapy tutor Ani Baghdasaryan. "They
like to paint very much. We organize exhibitions
as well. Their state of mind and moods are reflected
with colors. Dark colors say that the problem
exists. It also helps to understand them."
Personnel say one of the most favorite hours
for the visitors is when they help out themselves;
when they gather in group and start listening
to each other's problems and disturbing issues
without interrupting, trying to find solutions
by their own forces.
"I feel self-sufficient here," says
one man who is a regular visitor. "Everything
was terrible in a mental hospital, where I was
treated. I'm not talking only about beating and
violence but about the way they treated us. They
didn't want to understand us. They didn't treat
us as people. But here everything is completely
"The word 'patient', which we've got used
to over the years, is never addressed to us in
the center," says one woman. "You can
be cool there and talk about everything that disturbs
you and nobody will look at you strangely. And
if you want you can talk to a psychologist face
to face. It's very normal."
A unique environment has been created at the
Day Center. All celebrations and birthdays are
celebrated and recently two visitors have even
fallen in love and gotten married.
According to Karen Nahapetyan the Center has
had visitors from age 25 to 73, with about 40
different disorders. Still, he says the center
is only reaching a portion of those who need its
"The number of those who wish to visit the
center, is very big. We don't even make announcements
or put advertisements as we can't receive everyone,"
Nahapetyan says. "We have friends in mental
hospitals and polyclinics who recommend people
to visit our center as we haven't got any other
ways of working yet."
Building No.58, apartment 6, a new kind of
mental health care is being practiced.
Nahapetyan says that people with mental health
problems first of all need good treatment.
He also says that society's reaction toward those
with mental disorders has been evident.
"We rented buildings in different areas
and the attitude of society towards people with
these problems became clear from the neighbors'
behavior and reaction at our visitors," Nahapetyan
says. "Even offices of the heads of districts
try to avoid assisting us in questions of renting
buildings when they find out about our activities."
Nahapetyan assures that in case they find new
and bigger buildings and get assistance from the
local authorities, the center will be able to
expand its activities and to help and render psychological
assistance to more people.
"The example of this institution explains
the fact that our republic extremely needs structures
like that," says coordinator of the healthcare
program of Assistance Foundation of OSI Anahit
Papikyan. "Every year OSI shortens its funding
so that local authorities can (get involved financially).
If the government realizes the importance of such
institutions then the concern will probably appear.
We are trying to show that and make them understand
as well. If before they didn't want even to notice
this field then these days there is a progress
as they started to realize that all of this is
important but they still don't know how they must