Task force adressing mental health care, says minister

| 13/10/2010

(CNS): The minster for health has admitted that there have been both deficiencies in treatment for mental health and a public awareness gap allowing the stigmatisation of people with mental health problems. In his message marking World Mental Health Day, Mark Scotland said his ministry has recognized the need for a new approach and has appointed a Mental Health Taskforce to draft a National Mental Health Policy and review legislation. Concerns have been raised for many years in Cayman about the lack of adequate mental health care to treat those with serious conditions, many of whom end up in the prison system.

Mark Scotland’s full message:
As we celebrate World Mental Health Day in the Cayman Islands this year, we are reminded of disquieting statistics produced by the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO).  
Mental disorders account for some 24% of diseases in our region and of these, depression is by far the most prevalent.
In addition, the regional health organization warns of a strong link between mental illness and poor long-term health.
Many still perceive mental health issues as belonging on the periphery of health care, particularly since they feel that the numbers involved are limited to only a small percentage ofthe total population. However, these PAHO findings should dispel that myth and at the same time serve as a wake up call to make mental healthcare far more accessible to everyone.
Sound mental health is vital to optimal well-being and just as we guard our physical health, we should also be mindful of our – and others’ – mental health. And in this regard, I do commend our local mental health practitioners who are already working towards integrating mental and physical treatments, to the benefit of all patients.
However, while health practitioners are recognizing mental disorders as a prominent health concern, the truth is that for too long, authorities in this region have underestimated the prevalence, impact, and associated costs of mental illness.
This has led to deficiencies in treatment. But it has also resulted in a public awareness gap that has in turn led to stigma and stereotyping that so often seriously undermine effective management and recovery.
Recognizing the need for a new approach, my ministry appointed a Mental Health Taskforce in May this year. Comprising educators, psychologists, social workers, nurses, police and physicians in both public and private sectors, these taskforce members are drafting a National Mental Health Policy, in addition to reviewing local legislation.
The ultimate goal is to produce a legal framework that will better protect patients and reflect statistical trends, as well as accommodate advances in psychiatric treatments.
There are no quick fixes and for the foreseeable future, mental illness will continue to challenge individuals, society and government.
But even as health officials and others work towards introducing dynamic solutions, you too can help curb the negative impact of mental illness. Just make a point to access care if you feel you need it, join the awareness drive, or help a friend get through depression.
Mental health is everyone’s business. For as the Chief Executive Officer of the World Federation for Mental Health, Vijay Ganju so wisely noted: “The bottom line is that there is no health without mental health.”
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  1. Right ya so says:

    What do you mean Cayman has mental health issues?!  (note the very heavy sarcasm!) … as usual something that we don’t want to discuss is brushed under the rug…..

    Having suffered from depression from the age of 11, which on numerous occasions was dismissed, told to ‘just pull your socks up, there’s nothing wrong with you" and more in that vein until I was finally diagnosed with chronic, severe depression at the age of 37, I know how much we need to address this most serious of issues.. that’s 26 years suffering from an illness that got progressively worse as time wore on – can you imagine getting more and more sick over the years but being told there’s nothing wrong??

    It’s horrendous not knowing what is wrong with you, wondering if you are losing your mind, why you want to die, why you are so very unhappy and why on God’s earth you don’t fit in … despite having attempted suicide twice my mental health issues were not diagnosed by any of those that call themselves doctors. One of whom told me I should just get over it.

    How many others are like me? how many others have lost large chunks of their lives to this terrible illness because of Cayman’s unwillingness to deal with it?

    It’s time for all of us to step up to the plate and address it head on. Stop pretending it doesn’t exist Cayman. It does and it’s in your family too.


  2. Anonymous says:

    Kudos to Minister Scotland for tackling this subject. There is much to do but this start is most encouraging.

  3. Anonymous says:

    There is no mental health care on this island, full stop period.   Those that find themselves before the courts cannot be made subject to a mental health act disposal because the place for their detention is Northward.  Although I am not allowed to blog in my own name – because apparently we are not allowed to be controversial on this island for fear of losing our work permits.  However I was involved in a case where a man was quite clearly in need of urgent and specialist mental health intervention and he ended up in prison – where incidentally – he died. I hasten to add his death was not brought on by the mental health issues but rather by another intervening cause.  His case was just one example of the serious lack of proper mental health facilities on the island.  There are regularly situations where people who are before the courts because of their mental health issues are brought in and out of court and given no proper assistance. Those in custody with mental health issues cannot be dealt with .  The only publicly funded psychiatrist on the island I believe only does one half a day at the prison a month if that and no longer accepts any new cases.  Getting a mental health related report on a prisoner takes months and months and sometimes never at all.  A community that purports to have a strong christian faith that fails to care for the weak and the vulnerable not a christian community.  The church here spends more time rallying against gays than it does concentrating on caring for those who really need their help.  As a footnote to this particular rant I would say that those who fail to look atthe mental health issues of their communities risk the safety of the remainder of the community.  Many many serious offences have been committed and publicised in the UK by schizophrenics.  Extensive use of crack and high THC marijuana has been shown to bring on drug induced psychosis – just another word really for a form of schizophrenia.  Ignore mental health issues at your peril.  It is obviously not a very interesting topic as it has been on CNS for a day or so and no comments.