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Minister of Health and Environment, Rudyard Spencer, has said that the Ministry has plans to fully develop a community-based mental health service.
Making his presentation in the 2008/09 Sectoral Debate, at Gordon House, today (June 3), Mr. Spencer said the Ministry was working to enable access to all levels of health care closer to communities.
“It is a fundamental right of every patient to be treated closer to their community,” the Minister emphasized.
The community-based service will be supported by an Emergency Crisis and Outreach Team and a Rehabilitative Service at the parish level at each Regional Hospital, Mr. Spencer informed.
He pointed out that mental illnesses, which range from depression to the more severe schizophrenia, cost the health sector US$600 million annually. “Our health indices show that some 29 per cent of our 15 to 74 age group suffers from some kind of mental disorder,” he added.
In addition, he noted that long term institutional care is extremely expensive and not in the best interest of persons who are suffering from mental illness. He said that alternative living arrangements was required in a supportive environment that would help them (the mentally ill) to cope with their illness.
Several conditions, the Minister noted further, impact adversely on the mental health of people, in that, drug use and alcohol abuse among the youth is on the increase; the increasingly violent environment that is creating fear and anxiety; families are disrupted and dislocated because of violent loss of lives and in many instances multiple killings in communities and families; harsh economic climate and destitution; and natural disasters. Also, persons are living longer and more of the elderly are experiencing some form of mental disorder. “We need to make some shifts in how we approach the mental health services. It needs to be fully integrated into family health and especially our maternal and child health programmes,” the Minister said.
He noted too, that de-stigmatization of mental illness was crucial, as little would be accomplished, irrespective of the policies and programmes that are put in place. “People are reluctant to access care because of the stigma that is associated with mental illness,” the Health Minister noted.
“We will also scale up inter-agency and non-Governmental Organization (NGO) collaboration to improve our services,” Mr. Spencer added.