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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (April 12, 2001 - Papua New Guinea Post-Courier/PINA Nius Online)---Marijuana and alcohol have been pinpointed as the main causes of mental illness among high school students and other young men admitted to Port Moresby General Hospital.

Deputy chief pediatrician Dr. David Mokela said marijuana is becoming a big problem in Papua New Guinea.

Dr. Mokela, who spoke at the opening of the hospital’s psychiatric ward, said marijuana was affecting many school children.

"Mental illness is increasingly becoming a big problem in Papua New Guinea today," he said.

"Marijuana is becoming a big problem too. Children will continue to abuse the drug unless we take drastic measures to stop this."

The officer in charge of the psychiatric ward, Raymond Lope, said many of those affected by marijuana are between the ages of 13 and 20. They range from high school students to settlement dwellers, street kids and villagers.

Mr. Lope said the ward admits two to three people every month.

Mental health specialist Dr. Umar Ambi also said the number of mental cases caused by marijuana and alcohol are increasing in other provinces.

"We see about 10 cases weekly in any clinic, and the number is drastically increasing," Dr Ambi said.

However, Mr. Lope said the ward’s staff is working hard to conduct public awareness programs to educate the public on the causes and prevention of mental illness.

Moresby South MP Lady Carol Kidu challenged residents to care for the mentally ill. She said they shouldn’t be ignored.

For additional reports from The Post-Courier, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The Post-Courier (Papua New Guinea).

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