Belize’s Technical Advisor for Mental Health receives international award


Switzerland, October 2011. Claudina Cayetano, leader of the Belize Mental Health Program received the 2011 Award for an "Outstanding achievement in the field of Mental Health Care" offered by the Swiss Foundation for World Health, in collaboration with WHO. This award is given to a person whose efforts have led to a significant improvement in the provision of health care for people with mental illness.

Dr. Cayetano is a medical doctor specialized in Psychiatry. She received her degree at Universidad de San Carlos in Guatemala and her post-graduate degree in Psychiatry at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. For over a decade, Dr. Claudina Cayetano was the only Psychiatrist in Belize. She currently serves as Technical Advisor for Mental Health with the Ministry of Health and as Clinical Consultant to the National Mental Health Program.

As a Technical Advisor, Dr. Cayetano coordinates the implementation of the annual Mental Health Plan. As a result of her tireless efforts and leadership, the Belize Mental Health Program has been recognized by the Pan American Health Organization as one of the innovative practices in mental health and a model in the Caribbean.

Under her leadership, mental health services in Belize have undergone major changes, namely: the development of community-based care; successful closing down of the custodial psychiatric hospital and relocation of patients in community-based service settings; integration of mental health care into the primary care service; development of new sets of competencies among primary care staff; and the establishment of the Mental Health Association as an NGO.

Initiatives like these help to provide better access to basic mental health care and to reduce stigma and discrimination. Also, through her efforts, mental health statistics is now integrated into the National Health Information System. Her professional career outside of medicine includes collaboration with NGOs and, specifically, with the National Garifuna Council an Indigenous organization that seeks to preserve the language and culture of the Garifuna People. An important aspect of her life is her family, her husband and their daughter.