Community psychiatric nurse champions mental health during pandemic

6 Oct 2021
Dympna Carten, Community Psychiatric Nurse at the Ministry of Health and Wellness in the Cayman Islands.

Dympna Carten, Community Psychiatric Nurse, is on a mission to champion mental health care and access to services for Caymanians. Named after Saint Dympna, Patron Saint of Mental Illness who bravely pioneered mental health care in the 7th Century, Carten considers this servant leadership her calling. 

“This is my dream job. No two days are the same because I liaise with a wide range of professionals, a wonderful array of patients and family members, travelling throughout Grand Cayman to deliver care. However, the best bit is being part of the journey of mental illness and recovery that my patients and their families live through,” shared Carten.

At the start of the pandemic, Carten was invited to sit on the National Emergency Occupation Centre as the mental health support. She soon worked with colleagues to set up the mental health helpline, developed a short guide for families to take care of people living with mental health illnesses during the pandemic and supported colleagues in other Caribbean countries to set up national mental health helplines and address mental health provision in quarantine facilities.

“For the first time, mental health is a major part of the national emergency preparation and response agenda in the Cayman Islands. This development has allowed us to incorporate psychological first aid in training provided to shelter managers and their staff. Kudos to the Director of the Hazard Management Cayman Islands (HMCI) for supporting this move,” shared the Irish native who has worked in Cayman for the past 23 years.

Carten credits regional courses delivered by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and its technical advisers for supporting her in advancing mental health in the Cayman Islands.

“I received training from PAHO in Psychological First Aid in Disaster Management in the Caribbean, Integration of Mental Health into Primary Care and Preventing Self-Harm/Suicide. This capacity building along with the constant availability of technical advisers at PAHO, has equipped me with knowledge of international best practices and the wherewithal to implement the relevant plans to champion mental health in the country,” shared Dympna, who is currently enrolled in PAHO’s course on Understanding Stigma and Cognitive Behavioural Interpersonal Skills.

Carten lives her work. This has led her to start her own charity, Radio Head, which is dedicated to donating small radios to people living with mental health issues and the vulnerable elderly, serving the dual aims of combatting isolation and keeping them informed of current happenings in the news media.

Speaking on the impact and thanking donors, she said, “I started this charity because I saw a need to do more and I’m grateful for the many residents who donated radios and have worked with me to support people in need. Your contributions make a huge impact.”

When asked about how mental health services can support in building communities with equity, Carten said “we need to encourage greater ‘user’ contribution in policy development, ensure robust provision for mental health in primary care settings and encourage organization to increase participation in mental health related projects.”

She reiterated, “we all have a role to play in building equitable communities for people with mental illnesses. Also, robust mental health care services will benefit each of us at some point in our lives.”