Psychiatrist Jayan Mendis told MediaLK that the government’s claim that inmates and detainees at the Mahara Prison had behaved violently as a result of anti-depressant drugs is completely untrue.
He emphasized that the family members of the patients who were taking the drug on their medical conditions are in distress due to the media reporting this false statement and that there are trust issues regarding the medicinal drugs. He said that he hoped that the public would be made aware of this through the media.
He said those medicinal drugs were supposed to reduce stress and calm the mind or put the consumer to sleep, adding that the authorities could have consulted doctors before making such statements.
He pointed out that although illicit drugs can create such a situation where the user can be confused, it is unfortunate that prison authorities, police spokesperson and government ministers have issued statements regarding medicinal drugs without any investigation.
The Psychiatric Association of Sri Lanka also emphasized that the drugs used to treat mental illness do not cause any violent behavior. The association made a statement regarding the use of medicinal drugs for antidepressants to treat mental illnesses.
“The media had reported that the inmates were on medicinal drugs used to treat mental illnesses, which was the reason for the situation at the Mahara Prison in the past few days. The following explanation is provided by the Sri Lanka Psychiatric Association as this statement creates a misconception among the public about mental illness and related therapies.
“The news may also have influenced the perception in today’s society that mentally ill people can exhibit violent behavior, but it is more likely that patients will be embarrassed by others than for being mentally ill.
“Drugs currently used for mental illnesses in Sri Lanka are now widely used around the world and are subjected to internationally and nationally recognized regulations. The prescribing of these drugs in Sri Lanka for decades has not only alleviated the mental illness of a large number of patients but has also improved their quality of life.
“These medicinal drugs never cause violence and are used to reduce aggression. Proper treatment can largely cure mental illness and prevent recurrence. We, the Psychiatric Association of Sri Lanka, reiterate that the drugs used for this purpose do not cause any violent behavior. We urge you not to be misled by such news and to seek immediate medical attention when you have a mental illness.”
Prisons Commissioner (Administration) Chandana Ekanayake had stated at a media briefing on December 1st that the inmates had taken stress pills and sleeping pills in the prison drug store and that this had caused a conflicting situation. The Commissioner had also stated that the inmates who are currently hospitalized with injuries are still behaving in a confusing manner due the pills.
He further stated that there were about 21,000 such pills in the relevant drug store and the doubts arise as to why so many pills were stored there.
Police Media Spokesman, DIG Ajith Rohana had also expressed this view, adding that preliminary investigations have revealed that a doctor from the Mahara Prison was also involved in the incident. Minister Wimal Weerawansa made the first statement on the 30th that prisoners were on pills.