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June 18 2014 | TIRANA, ALBANIA

Overcoming the institutionalization of people with mental disorders. New pathways of mental health in Albania

At the conference organised by Sant'Egidio: from the closure of the ward for chronically ill people of the psychiatric hospital in Tirana to the family houses. An effective and replicable model across the country

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"Everything can change", this is the sentence of Saint John Paul II chosen as the title of the conference held on the morning of 17 June in Tirana.A sentence that perfectly expresses the strong belief of the Community of Sant'Egidio in its work in Albania.

An extraordinary story of friendship, spanning more than 20 years, summarised in a touching speech by Monsignor Vincenzo Paglia, the first Catholic priest authorised by the communist regime to enter Albania. "New pathways of mental health", reads the subtitle. The history of the Community in Albania, in fact, met 18 years ago with that of the patients in the ward for chronically ill people of the psychiatric hospital in Tirana. Over the years a strong friendship has grown, made of concrete help, but most of all of faithful meetings. Today, the Community has achieved a dream cultivated in these long years with the opening of two family houses that are home to these friends, while the ward for chronically ill people of the psychiatric hospital was finally closed.

The conference, where the Ministers of Health and Welfare of the Government of Albania took the floor besides other people, has traced the evolution of this dream, which today has become the realization of a model of care and treatment of people with psychiatric disorders, an alternative to institutionalization. It is a replicable model in other areas of the country without an economic burden.

An investment on people for whom any change seemed impossible, but as stated by Dr. Marone, a psychiatrist and professor at La Sapienza University in Rome, "the therapy of hope" is the most effective way to bring back to life those that seemed to be definitively excluded.

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