Winners of the inaugural Psychiatric Hospital/AstraZeneca Primary School Spelling Competition were today rewarded in a ceremony held at the Errol Barrow Centre for Creative Imagination, Cave Hill Campus.

Senior Consultant Psychiatrist, Dr. Ermine Belle, in addressing the ceremony, told students and their teachers that mental health touched everyone and the community mental health nurses played an integral part in its treatment.

She said: “We started as early as 1972 to go into the communities to try to reach the people who were suffering from mental health problems, and this grew over the years until we now have 12 community mental health nurses.”

Dr. Belle lauded the nurses who were “instrumental in organising the event” and told the students that these nurses had fulfilled a life-long goal of the hospital – that of integrating with schools to bring mental health to the community. While stressing that there was an absolute need for such nurses, she said it had a lot to do with stigma. 

“That word is really the word at the back of the whole thrust of community mental health,” she said.

Students also heard that while the hospital at Black Rock housed patients who are severely ill and could not help themselves, mental health services had grown “from mental health clinics and Psychiatric outpatient clinics that function out of our polyclinic system and out of our satellite clinics in the community”.   

According to Dr. Belle, who is also Chairman of the National Mental Health Commission, every parish now had community mental health nurse, and it is through the mental health reform programme that community mental health services would be expanded and the illness desigmatised.

“Importantly enough, we [will] do this by helping people to understand what mental health is; to let them know that it is an illness like any other illness, and that anyone of us can become mentally ill if we have enough problems, enough stress and if, of course, we have a pre-disposition… you are vulnerable to becoming mentally ill because maybe it runs through your family.”

The psychiatrist also noted that the mental health policy, approved by Cabinet in 2004, would be followed by a plan which would be specific to addressing all areas of mental health. She said: “It is very important that we embrace within those documents the fact that we need to go into communities, we need to treat people in situations where they are not afraid of coming through the gates of the Psychiatric Hospital.”

Hindsbury Primary School took the top prize in the spelling competition and was represented by Shaniqua Beckles, Melanie Browne, Yasmin Holder and Daniell Sobers. Second place went to Wilkie Cumberbatch while Arthur Smith Primary came third.  

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