Minister of Health, Donville Inniss (centre) with several members of the recently-launched National Mental Health Commission at the Errol Barrow Centre for Creative Imagination, UWI, Cave Hill.

There are approximately 500 patients residing at the Psychiatric Hospital in Black Rock, and of this total 30% are female and 70% male.

This was disclosed by Minister of Health, Donville Inniss as he addressed the launch of the National Mental Health Commission yesterday at the Errol Barrow Centre for Creative Imagination, Cave Hill Campus.

Explaining that Government was quite concerned about the number of men, especially young men, whose core problem was substance abuse, he said, “I would like for the drug dealers and their supporters to visit and see the outcome of their actions.

“Between the Psychiatric Hospital and the private facilities, funded in part by taxpayers, we are spending millions each year confronting the mental illness associated with substance abuse.”

While noting that 450 million people around the world at some time would experience a mental illness that would require diagnosis and treatment, Minister Inniss added “…In any one year, one-third of people living with schizophrenia, more than half of those suffering from depression, and three-quarters of those with alcohol use disorders are unable to access simple and affordable treatment or care." 

He disclosed that the Ministry of Health had re-enforced its mental health services in the polyclinic system and was currently offering psychiatric outpatient sessions. He said this took into account the need to offer services to persons including children and adolescents “who need treatment and behavioural management interventions and who would prefer to be seen away from the institutional setting of the Psychiatric Hospital.”

The Health Minister also revealed that the existing community mental health nursing service was being reviewed “with the objective of strengthening this facility and creating a career stream so that practitioners in this field can enjoy the benefits of promotion without needing to abandon the specialisation in order to gain mobility elsewhere”.

The occasion also saw the launch of the Commission’s website health that will assist in executing its mandate to educate the public on issues relating to mental health.

Patrons were also treated to a half-hour play entitled “Opening up the Green Gates” that used poetry, drama, song and dance to examine issues of mental health.

Produced by renowned dramatist, Winston Farrell, it will be used by the Commission to sensitise and educate schools and community groups about the issues.

The National Mental Health Commission was established not only to advise the Minister on critical issues relating to mental health but also to provide an avenue where stakeholders from various sectors can give their input as to the way forward for mental health in Barbados.

The Commission is expected to work with members of the community and various organisations to provide appropriate housing, training, employment opportunities, legal aid and general amenities to support persons who are being rehabilitated into the society.

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