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Last Updated: Monday, 19 January, 2004, 11:32 GMT
Swedish psychiatry in the dock

Lars Bevanger
BBC, Stockholm

The Anna Lindh murder trial has rekindled an already heated debate here about Sweden's failing psychiatric care system.

Court sketch of Mijailo Mijailovic and attendant
Mijailovic (left) will undergo a month-long psychiatric examination
Mijailo Mijailovic, who has confessed to stabbing the foreign minister, told the court doctors had turned him away when he sought psychiatric help.

He says he attacked Ms Lindh after hearing voices in his head urging him to do so.

A 1995 reform was meant to modernise and streamline Sweden's psychiatric system, by reducing the number of closed psychiatric wards and integrating patients into society during their treatment.

It is a fantastic and ridiculous situation we're in. Anna Lindh has to die, so that Mijailo Mijailovic can get psychiatric treatment
Leading Swedish defence lawyer, Leif Silbersky
But many patients, sometimes people suffering from severe mental illness, fell outside the new system and outside of care.

Critics have seized on Mr Mijailovic's testimony about how he killed Anna Lindh as further evidence of the failures of the new system.

More voices

One of Sweden's top defence lawyers, Leif Silbersky, is angry.

Anna Lindh
After the death, Sweden launched an inquiry into psychiatric care
"It is a fantastic and ridiculous situation we're in. Anna Lindh has to die, so that he [Mijailo Mijailovic] can get psychiatric treatment," he told BBC News Online outside Stockholm city court.

"There has to be a debate in Sweden about psychiatric care... and there will be a debate, believe me, until things change."

There have been other violent attacks here committed by people who arguably should have been under psychiatric care, but who for various reasons were not.

In the summer before Anna Lindh's death, a man drove his car at high speed down a pedestrian street in Stockholm's old town, killing two people and injuring 15.

He too later said he had heard voices telling him to do it.

Too late

Another man found to be in need of psychiatric care attacked people outside a Stockholm underground station by hitting them on the head with an iron rod.

All mental hospitals where they look after people, they close, they throw people out - they end up in an environment they don't know, and go off the rails
Homeless man, Jouko Pekka Jokinen
Then, on the same day Anna Lindh died, a patient from a psychiatric hospital who had been allowed out, stabbed a five-year-old girl to death at her nursery.

He said he'd been inspired by the Anna Lindh murder.

A homeless man, Jouko Pekka Jokinen, who has lived rough in Stockholm for a decade, says the psychiatric reform has visibly resulted in more and more mentally ill people on the streets.

"All mental hospitals where they look after people are closing and throwing people out.

"They end up in an environment they don't know, and go off the rails," he says.

"What do you think happens? Nine out of 10 try to do something to draw attention to the fact that they need help."

The government here says it recognises the 1995 psychiatric reform has not worked satisfactorily.

Soon after the death of Anna Lindh it announced an inquiry into what needs to be done.

The critics have already condemned that move as too little, too late.


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