A claim by the alleged Mosta cat killer that he had stopped taking psychiatric medication for several months exposes the need for increased community mental care, according to Mount Carmel Hospital executive officer Clifton Grima.

“This case shows how important public awareness is. We need more public education on psychiatric health and increased efforts in community care,” said Dr Grima.

Nicholas Grech, 37, of Mosta, was arraigned last week in connection with the gruesome animal crucifixions that have been taking place since late 2011.

The statement that Mr Grech had desisted from taking his medication was made in court by his legal aid lawyer.

Mr Grech has been attending outpatient psychiatric sessions every six months for the past eight years after he had been found guilty of harassing a young woman in 2005.

A recent study found that three quarters of patients registered at Mount Carmel were receiving community care.

Dr Grima said he hoped the issue of the need for more public awareness would be addressed as part of the upcoming mental health care reform.

He insisted that the accused, who is now being treated at Mount Carmel’s forensic ward, should be given all the necessary treatment he required. The sentiment was shared by the head of the government’s Community Mental Health Care Department, Dolores Gauci.

Although reluctant to comment on the case, Ms Gauci noted that Mr Grech should be “treated and not vilified”. She was reacting to comments on the social media calling for the accused to be given a harsh penalty if found guilty.

Ms Gauci said treatment was key in cases where psychiatric conditions led to criminal behaviour.

In a 2002 court case, psychiatrist David Cassar had established that Mr Grech suffered from regular bouts of psychosis, which from minor obsessions had developed into “fixed and unshaken” behavioural patterns.

Dr Cassar had later concluded that Mr Grech regularly lost control of his own thoughts.

A court had later ordered three separate psychiatrists to evaluate Mr Grech and, in April 2003, they reported that he was mentally unstable and had regularly attempted to harm himself. On one such occasion, he had severe bruising from rope burns that lasted several months, the doctors pointed out.

The medical experts also reported that his psychosis had developed into regular delusions of persecution. This, they said, appeared chronic and had a bearing influence on Mr Grech’s decision making.

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