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2009 World Health Day Message by Minister of Health

 

October 10th is celebrated worldwide as “World Mental Health day.”  Here in Grenada we also take note of the importance of mental health, and the need to put aside a day to raise awareness about the importance of mental health and mental health care for all citizens.

This year’s theme “Mental health in Primary Care: Enhancing Treatment and Promoting Mental Health” addresses the continuing need to make mental health issues a global priority.  It stresses the all too often neglected fact that mental health is an integral element of every individual’s overall health and well being.

Mental illnesses do not choose their victims; they occur in all cultures, races, social strata and at all stages of the life span.

We recognize as officials of health care delivery that the engagement of the “end users” of mental health services, their families who often carry much of the responsibility for helping people living with mental health and the advocates who attempt to influence mental health policies, is critical during this time of reform, with limited resources.  Informing and equipping the grassroots mental health community to make certain that mental health and mental illnesses are considered integral to overall good health and appropriate services for those who require them are the principal goals for the 2009 World Mental Health Day campaign and certainly our Government.

However advocates, families, professionals and policymakers throughout all sectors must remember that this current movement to improve the way in which mental health services are delivered is not the first such reform effort.  Lessons learned from the past tell us that achieving parity in how mental health services are addressed in countries around the world is not an easy struggle. 

The Government however cannot do it alone.  Families, community groups, NGO, Health workers, Churches, all will have to get on board, to help make this a reality.  The integration advocated will take time.  It will be a long process and not a one-off event. 

The time has come for the treatment of mental illness to be given the same level of priority as physical illness.  The time has come for us all to work towards overcoming the stigma attached to mental illnesses and integration of services will help in that regard.  The time has come for us to recognize that too many of our young people are experiencing mental health problems, but are afraid to seek the necessary help because of the stigma which comes attached to mental disorders.

Nurturing good mental health must begin from early childhood.  Healthy nutritional practices, pre-school psycho-social interventions, skill building and child development programmes are some cost-effective interventions of good mental health, and these are available to the young children of our nation.  We are convinced that improving access to education and enhancing socio-economic empowerment, positively impact mental health.  As a result, the government of Grenada has been actively working to make education more accessible to the children and youth of our country.

I call upon each of you to take seriously, your mental health and your family’s mental health.  I call upon each one of you to extend a helping hand to someone who is not enjoying good mental health.  I wish to remind every citizen of this country that there is no real health without mental health.

The importance of this move to promote mental health in primary health care and enhance treatment cannot be over emphasized, since mental health disorders continue to be an expensive and serious health issue.

Too many productive hours are lost when persons are home sick because of poor mental health.  Mental health must be recognized as being more than just the absence of mental disorders.  Mental health is a state of well being where individuals can cope with the normal stresses of life and can realize and develop their own abilities.  Good mental health means persons can work productively and make a contribution to their community.

Primary health care starts with people.  And, integrating mental health services into primary care is the most viable way of ensuring that people have access to the mental health care they need.  People can access mental health services closer to their homes, thus keeping families together and maintaining their daily activities.  In addition, they avoid indirect costs associated with seeking specialist care in distant locations.  Mental Health care delivered in primary care minimizes stigma and discrimination, and removes the risk of human rights violations that can occur in institutions.

As we plan the way forward for mental health care in our country let us focus on the critical role that mental health advocacy, patient/service users and family/caregivers and the community need to play in shaping this major mental health reform movement. This advocacy will be necessary if the movement towards integration is to result in improved access to quality, adequate and affordable services for people experiencing mental illness and emotional health problems in our country.

I also want to take this opportunity to publicly express my sincerest thanks to all our hard working mental health care providers at our hospitals and the wider community for continuing to provide care to our sisters and brothers who are affected by mental illness.

I recognize that you have been operating in a challenging environment, but I want to assure you that your contribution and commitment to service is appreciated and treasured.

As we review this year’s theme – Mental Health in Primary Care: Enhancing Treatment and Promoting Mental Health – let us continue to remember that working together is our best way forward.    As we demand more from our healthcare providers, let those of us in the global mental health movement and the wider community also begin to work together, for the good of all people affected by mental illness. 

As Government we have spent the last few months reviewing our own mental health programme and have just concluded a review of both the institutional services and the community services.  We have secured the services of a full time psychiatrist to support our medical team currently involved in providing care to our citizens and have also re-engaged a group of professionals from Dalhousie University in Canada to work with our professionals in redesigning our mental health care approach.

 

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