End Discrimination Against Mental Health Patients

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Participants of the Mental Health 101 workshop listen attentively during tje opening ceremony. (C. Pitt/BGIS)

Although this country’s health care system is quite capable of providing the necessary treatment for persons with mental health illnesses, there is still a need for Barbadians to get past the stigma and discrimination associated with this disease.

Minister of Health, Donville Inniss, made this assertion today, while addressing the opening ceremony of a workshop entitled: Mental Health 101, which was held at the Pan American Health Organisation, Dayrells Road, Christ Church.

Mr. Inniss told participants, who were drawn from the media, labour unions, and the hotel and construction sectors, that an awareness of mental health issues, the acceptance of those issues and an active involvement by each member of the community was necessary for their individual services to have an impact on the health of persons in their communities.

"Our main issue is getting past the stigma and discrimination associated with mental illness and convincing all persons in the community that the right to health includes the right to mental health and that quality mental health services are accessible to all persons…

For this reason we are enlisting your support in our prevention and promotion efforts. Prevention of mental disorders and vigorous promotion of healthy behaviours are critical for decreasing the burden of mental illnesses and for helping people to realise their full potential," he emphasised.

The Health Minister also pointed out that Government’s Mental Health Reform Programme, which focuses on the continued development of community services, has realised a reduction in the number of patients being admitted to the Psychiatric Hospital "from a high of 647 a decade ago, to 550 today".

"Of equal importance is the good news that an increasing number of individuals with some psychiatric challenges are being treated without ever having visited either the Psychiatric Hospital or the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.?? Hence, these individuals are seemingly leading normal lives, going to work, living with their families and otherwise conducting themselves in their communities without stigma and discrimination," Mr. Inniss explained.

He added that Government was working towards the expansion of its community-based mental health services programme by training additional nursing staff and seeking additional psychiatrists and psychologists to be based in the community.

The Health Minister further stressed that there was a real need for the engagement and deployment of more psychologists in communities.?? He stated: "It is my considered opinion that there is a need for the engagement and deployment of

more psychologists within our society in general and within our public health care system in particular.?? The specific branches of psychologists will be dependent upon the challenges to be addressed. However, many of our lives and souls in this society can be saved by the timely intervention of a trained psychologist.

"This does not in any way diminish the role of the psychiatrist but clearly we must, in this 21st century, be far more appreciative of the roles of psychologists in the diagnosis, prevention, care and treatment of individuals and society as we embark upon a more holistic approach to health care", he added.

The workshop is the third in a series designed by the Mental Health Commission to assist persons in the community to better understand mental health issues.??

kim.ramsay-moore@barbados.gov.bb

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