Message From The National Mental Health Commission

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Barbados joined the rest of the world on October 10, 2009, to commemorate World Mental Health Day.??

This day has been recognised across the world from 1992 by the World Federation on Mental Health as part of efforts to promote good mental health.

It was sadly accepted at that time that mental care was lagging behind physical health care by many years. Mental health has always been a sensitive area of health. This is so, because of the stigma that has been attached to it over the years.

There has been an international movement through the implementation of a mental health reform process to address this stigma, which has become one of the major risk factors which negatively impacts mental health. Stigma prevents individuals from seeking help in a timely fashion. Reducing stigma will lead to the accessing of early treatment and the enhancing of the quality of life of individuals. Reducing Stigma was the theme for World Mental Health Day in the year 2004.

The theme for this year is "Mental Health in Primary Care, Enhancing Treatment and Promoting Mental Health."

Over the last two decades, successive Governments in Barbados have been addressing mental health reform. This has led to the establishment of mental health clinics in the primary care setting, in each of the eight polyclinics and in the three satellite clinics in the parishes of St. John, St. Joseph and St. Andrew.

Persons with general medical conditions can readily access care throughout Barbados at all of these clinics. A presence in the clinics on par with the provisions made for those with hypertension, diabetes and other physical ailments?? for those with mental health issues, would accord easier access to many persons in need.

It would also play a major preventative role as the possibility of early diagnosis and treatment would be increased.

Mental illness which is no less a medical condition than those physical illnesses mentioned before, should therefore be guaranteed a more prominent place in the primary care setting. Consequently, the ongoing thrust will be to see these services and programmes offering mental health interventions expanded and improved.

General Practitioners and Family Medicine Practitioners in the private sector must be included in the updates and re-sensitising and retraining programmes on mental health, as it is well documented that maintaining good physical health is not as easily achieved without good mental health.

The Psychiatric Hospital administration and its personnel must be commended for taking the lead over the years in mental health reform initiatives, spearheading outreach activities in the schools, social and service clubs, churches and other societal institutions.

The most recent initiative in this area has been the collaborative effort between the Salvation Army and the Psychiatric Hospital in establishing the mental health clinic on the premises of the Salvation Army Headquarters, Reed Street, in the City.

This very timely intervention targetted those persons who are both mentally ill and homeless who are often non compliant with medication. In establishing this clinic, the access of these persons to treatment is facilitated.?? It remains the focus of those working in the delivery of mental health services to encourage and promote mental wellness.

Good mental health can only be achieved if every Barbadian man, woman and child recognises the risk factors associated with mental ill-health. Practising healthy lifestyles and adopting positive attitudes towards mental health is absolutely necessary. Risk factors such as substance abuse, poor stress management and stigma, as mentioned earlier, need to be urgently addressed.

It is therefore imperative that every Barbadian ensures he or she gets adequate rest, nutrition, and exercise, along with avoiding undue stress. Avoidance of illegal drugs cannot be stressed more and using only prescribed drugs must be emphasised.??????

The National Mental Health Commission stands firmly behind all those undertaking the task of championing mental health. It takes this opportunity to thank all those mental health-care providers, supportive family members, friends of users and all interested stakeholders who join improving the quality of life of all Barbadians though their sterling efforts to promote mental wellness.

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