Government To Amend Mental Health Act

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Minister of Health, Donville Inniss (right), in conversation with??Acting Hospital Director, Psychiatric Hospital, David Leacock makes a point at the symposium. (A. Miller/BGIS)????

Steps are currently being taken by Government to amend the Mental Health Act to provide a legal framework for the reform of mental health services in Barbados.

This was announced yesterday by Minister of Health, Donville Inniss, as he addressed guidance counselors who took part in a symposium on childhood depression organised by the Psychiatric Hospital and held at the Pan-American Health Organisation at Dayrells Road.??

The objective of these amendments according to Mr. Inniss, is to provide services that are fully accessible and to eliminate the stigma and discrimination associated with providing or receiving mental health services.??

He explained that the amendments would also address care outside of the hospital setting and included provisions to protect human rights to ensure that the

level of care afforded to persons affected by a mental disability was of the same standard as for persons with any other illness or disability.??

"The amendment of the Act would allow for the inclusion of provisions mandated within international human rights declarations such as the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. It is also expected to have a positive impact on the reform of the existing mental health system through the establishment of effective prevention strategies which would result in reduced demand for institutionalised mental health treatment services and for easy access to high quality services for all persons who require care at the primary, secondary or tertiary levels," he said.

The Health Minister proffered the view that the "gap in care" in Barbados was not as a result of a lack of appropriate services or of trained health professionals like in other countries. "Rather, the gap in care is primarily due to the social stigma associated with mental disorders and the need for enhanced capacity for the identification and early treatment of depression and other mental disorders in our community," Minister Inniss noted.

The Ministry of Health continues to expand its psychiatric and mental health programmes and has recently deployed additional mental health professionals into the community. ??"Sixteen community mental health nurse positions were established to facilitate this programme, and just two months ago in August, two Consultant Psychiatrist positions were approved; bringing to three the number of psychiatrists who are now providing services within the polyclinic system," he disclosed.

Although World Mental Health Day was celebrated on Wednesday, October 10, mental health awareness activities in Barbados were extended for the duration of the month. The theme chosen for this year’s celebrations was Depression: A Global Crisis.??

Depression affects more people than any other mental disorder and is also one of the world’s leading causes of disability.??It is characterised by sadness, loss of interest or pleasure, feelings of guilt or low self-worth, disturbed sleep or appetite, feelings of tiredness, and poor concentration.

lisa.bayley@barbados.gov.bb

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