Stigma Still Thwarting Mental Health Efforts

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Minister of Health, Donville Inniss, addressing participants at the Mental Health 101 workshop.??At right is PAHO/WHO Country Representative, Dr. Bernadette Theodore-Gandi.

The lack of attention given to preventing mental illness and promoting good mental health has been attributed to the stigma associated with psychological conditions.

This was stressed today by Minister of Health, Donville Inniss, as he addressed the first of two workshops on Mental Health 101.?? They are being conducted by the National Mental Health Commission, at the headquarters of the Pan-American Health Organisation (PAHO) in Dayrell’s Road.

He said: "Experts have noted that because of this stigma, population based
??programmes for mental health are sorely needed but, instead, are less common than those for other areas of public health."

Explaining that while most Barbadians were aware of risk factors associated with other chronic non-communicable diseases and preventative measures to counteract their occurrences, Mr. Inniss said this was not the same for mental ill health. "Unfortunately, mental illness does not enjoy this status and this lack of acceptance is due, primarily, to the stigma attached to it," he lamented.

The Health Minister also stated that recent public health initiatives on mental health had only just begun to complement the emphasis on psychiatric treatment services by focusing attention on preventing mental illness and promoting mental health. Mr. Inniss said: "This is the case not only in Barbados, but throughout the region."

It was further noted that stigma had also been identified as a hidden aspect of the burden of mental illness and to combat this, Government’s mental health reform programme would mobilise family and community support and encourage appropriate use of existing mental health services.

He lauded the Commission, noting that the workshop was one way in which community support was being mobilised to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness.??

"The Commission is strategically creating working partnerships to promote mental health and to improve the care of persons affected by mental illness in our society," he stressed.

And, he added: "By creating partnerships with the many organisations and agencies represented here today, the National Mental Health Commission is guaranteeing that the reform efforts, being initiated by the Ministry of Health, are not limited to the health sector but are implemented at all levels within the community.?? Promotion of mental health and raising awareness within the community are key elements of the mental health reform process."

The Commission comprises representatives of the media, religious organisations, trade unions, employer groups, non-governmental organisations and other government agencies.

jgill@barbados.gov.bb

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