Interview with Ana Muntean

Ana Muntean, Professor in Psychology at West University, Timisoara, is an internationally acclaimed expert on Social Work. She is the driving force behind organisations of maltreated and abandoned women and children, parents of handicapped children, children suffering from HIV/AIDS. With the help of the Brothers of Charity from Ghent a relief centre for children with AIDS has been realised.

 

Ana Muntean is one of the last group of Romanian psychologists, graduated in 1974. Just after that year the Ceausescu regime abolished the study of psychology. Muntean: Psychology, sociology and social work were all forbidden. Individuals did not exist any more. There were only the great masses of people building the new, happy communist society’.

As a psychologist she used to work in a Child Psychiatric Hospital. There she was confronted with the disorders caused by maltreatment and abandonment. Having children was an obligation imposed by the state. Contraceptives were unavailable. Human beings did not have any value in that society, and children even less so. Even the positive communist rules, like free health care, were ignored. I have seen children die from appendicitis because a surgeon did not turn up’.

Now, fourteen years after Romania’s transformation, the laws are set right. `The door is open now for all kinds of improvement. And the authorities are willing to change, nationally as well as locally. The Bologna Treaty, aiming to bring health care diplomas on a common level, is a challenge for us. Only: we lack the properly educated people to realise that.’ She tells a poignant story to clarify the present situation: `In children’s homes the overly aggressive kids, who also harm themselves, are tied to their beds for days on end since there is no treatment. It makes you feel ashamed to see this’, Muntean says, ´but I cannot blame the caretakers. They have never learned how to treat these children. They feel powerless and retire to their nursing station because they cannot bear to look at these kids’.

Professional education for psychiatric nurses is gradually getting started. Helped by Fracaritatis (Brothers of Charity, Ghent) and MAD-foundation (the Netherlands). ´The need for education is large’, Ana Muntean says. ´On every level of mental health care. Occupational therapy is still completely lacking; a course for occupational therapists is highly needed’.

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