Minister of Health, Donville Inniss

Winners of the inaugural Psychiatric Hospital/AstraZeneca Primary School Spelling Competition were today given a stern warning by Minister of Health, Donville Inniss, at a ceremony held at the Errol Barrow Centre for Creative Imagination, Cave Hill Campus.

Noting the effects that substance abuse has on the youth, he told the awardees: “I want to reiterate the importance of ensuring that you stay away from illegal drugs; that you reflect in your quiet moments and talk to your parents and your teachers
about the scourge of drugs in our society. We are spending an enormous amount of money fighting the issue of substance abuse in Barbados – drugs, alcoholism etc.  and I want to urge you young minds not to go in that direction. Just say no when it is offered.”

Minister Inniss had earlier outlined the relationship between mental health problems and some chronic illnesses, as well as the attendant costs of treating those afflicted. He said: “Mental health problems affect and are affected by chronic conditions such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes and HIV/AIDS; if untreated, they bring about poor health  behaviour, non-compliance with prescribed medication regimes, diminished immune functioning and negative disease outcomes.

“Most countries devote less than 1% of their health expenditure to mental health, which has meant that mental health policies, legislation, community care facilities and treatment for the mentally ill are dismally short of resources.”

Regretting that over the years not enough attention had been paid to the importance of mental health and its interdependence with physical health, Mr. Inniss said this had proven costly. He acknowledged: “Unhealthy behaviour has contributed significantly to high levels of morbidity and mortality. The associated high cost, as it relates to treatment for mental health issues, include substance abuse treatment programmes, which all negatively impact on the health care system and the National Insurance scheme.”

The students also heard a definition of mental health which the Minister noted would allow a different perspective on the illness. He noted that, “Mental Health is more than just the absence of ill health. It involves a state of well-being which allows the individual to recognize his/her ability to cope with the normal stresses of life, to work productively and contribute to his society.

“So, what is very clear is that mental health is much more than the mental illness in the traditional sense that we in Barbados know it to be or have known it to be over the years,”  Minister Inniss said.

He also told students and their teachers that he stood committed to the principles of the United Nation General Assembly adopted over a decade ago, in relation to the care and protection of the mentally ill, which includes no discrimination against the mentally ill and the right to care and treatment in their community.

Hindsbury Primary School took the top spot in the spelling competition and was represented by Shaniqua Beckles, Melanie Browne, Yasmin Holder and Daniell Sobers.

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