Recognising the importance of mental health, the Tobago House of Assembly in collaboration with the Tobago Regional Health Authority, the Ministry of Health and the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) held a workshop from March 3-4, 2009 on strengthening the mental health system in Tobago with a focus on enhancing the integration of mental health services into primary health care. In the workshop’s opening ceremony, the Honourable Secretary for Health and Social Services, Albert Pilgrim emphasized the commitment from the Tobago House of Assembly in this regard.
Workshop participants outlined the following as priorities over the next two years in enhancing the integration of mental health services into primary health care in Tobago:
· Empowering users of mental health services and the community through the formation of an advocacy group.
· Building the competencies and appropriate skills sets to understand the nature of health and mental health, its difficulties and disorders, how to identify ill health in one’s own self and others, and to take appropriate actions. The following groups will be the beneficiaries – teachers, students, out-of-school youth, parents, staff of the school support services, student support groups, morale education teachers, school nurses, extended school community
· Developing and implementing culturally appropriate client center models of care to enable mental health clients with mental health illnesses and disorders to remain in Tobago. When people are treated far from their homes, it disrupts normal daily life, employment and family life; it removes individuals from their normal support systems, essential to recovery, and it imposes more burden on families and care givers. By providing services in primary heath care the burden on individuals, families and society will be reduced, household productivity and social integration will be maintained, resulting in better chances of recovery.
· Developing/adapting policies, procedures, and protocols for integrating mental health into primary care settings, pilot testing them in selected settings with the intent of eventual “roll-out” to all primary care settings in Tobago
· Building the competencies and appropriate skills sets of the following groups to promote mental health and/or identify and manage mental illness – primary health care workers, other health professionals, community based organizations, non-governmental organizations, faith based organizations, protective services, judicial services
· Building the health knowledge and skills of Tobagonians to support mental wellbeing
The workshop was facilitated by Dr. Helene Crooks, Psychiatrist from the Tobago Regional Health Authority and Dr. Dévora Kestel, PAHO/WHO Mental Health Sub-Regional Advisor. Dr. Mentor Melville, County Medical Officer of Health; both Ms. Yvonne Lewis, Deputy Director of Health Promotion and Ms. Joslyn Edwards, Coordinator of the Community Care Programme from the Ministry of Health; Dr. Carol Boyd Scobie, PAHO/WHO Representative in Trinidad and Tobago; and Ms. Marilyn Entwistle, PAHO/WHO Advisor in Health Services Administration; participated in the workshop.