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Don’t Apply if You’re Mad

March 9, 2010

By Aigars Lazdiņš
“I had to walk past windowed cellblocks holding mental patients. Luckily it is winter so I was wearing my fluffy winter coat, but anyway their shouts and catcalls made me feel naked,” says Laima, a 20-year-old woman who recently visited The Riga Psychiatry and Narcology Centre (RPNC) to get her certificate of mental health.
A note that certifies a person is not a drug addict and/or mental patient is required before any Latvian can qualify for a driver’s license or a permit to own, carry or use a gun. The note is also needed to work in certain professions, such as a security guard, airplane pilot or attendant.
Laima was applying to be a stewardess for a local airline.
“Most of my friends just went to their family doctors and got their notes there. If your doctor knows your medical history well enough, he can write up the necessary form himself,” she explains. But in her case, the doctor decided a real checkup was needed, and for that Laima had to go to RPNC.
The whole procedure is not unpleasant or very expensive (more information can be found at In Laima’s opinion, the main problem is the outdated buildings where the RPNC is located.
Tvaika iela (Steam Street) has housed a psychiatric hospital (from which the RPNC was created) since Soviet times. Although the centers’ webpage proudly states, it has been renovated rather recently, the buildings remain mostly the same as they were a long time ago.
“You still have to get past the patients to see the doctors,” Laima says.

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