From left- Vere Marie Khan-Trudy Rouse, Manager Mental Health Programme; Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Antonia Popplewell and Minister Khan
August 06, 2012:
Welcome to the launch of the “National Mental Health Awareness Campaign 2012.” World Mental Health Day is observed on October 10th every year, and this programme is earmarked culminate in October in observation of this day.
As the old adage says, “Charity begins at home.” This is the very reason why the Ministry of Health has embarked upon this launch among its own staff and those of the Regional Health Authorities (RHAs). Let us start at home, within the health care system. Let us start from among ourselves in breaking down stigma and creating pathways of promise. Let us, as a Ministry, pioneer the formulation of best practice in treatment of the mentally ill as well as best practice in the promotion of mental health and prevention of disorders.
We have chosen to start the education drive among our own health professionals because statistics have shown that a significant amount of stigma and discrimination against the mentally ill arise from among the very ones charged with their care. Research has indicated that health-care professionals appeared to be less optimistic about prognosis and less positive about likely long-term outcomes, when compared with the general public.
May we all look at the ‘man in the mirror and let us make a change’ for the better. That desired change should demonstrate our deep interest in fostering a better understanding of the components of mental health. When he sang those words, was the former ‘King of Pop’, Michael Jackson, trying to provide us with a snap shot into his own mental health problems? May be so.
However, who among us here today can in all honesty say that we do not know someone who has been afflicted by a mental disorder? Have we personally taken any measures to champion their cause? Or are we individually engendering the negative actions perpetrated against the mentally ill?
This Launch today will focus on the positive aspects of mental health. As the weeks and months progress the public will observe and be encouraged to participate with the Ministry of Health as we develop more effective awareness-raising, training and educational programmes which will address mental well-being. The Ministry of Health is taking the lead. The goal of the Ministry of Health is not only to launch this initiative, but to have the learning sustained among all stakeholders, especially among the general population.
As was aptly demonstrated by the actors this morning, mental health issues also encompass substance misuse. There is a growing problem as it relates to drug use among our youth.
At the Ministry of Health we are particularly interested in this emerging phenomenon. You see ladies and gentlemen, adolescence is a time of opportunity and growth. On the other hand adolescence is also a time for young people to take risks that can have long-term effects on their health and well-being. These risks may involve the misuse of substances such as alcohol and cannabis. This misuse carries with it concurrent mental health issues.
The Global School Health Survey (GSHS) Report for Trinidad and Tobago 2007, provided some unsettling statistics about our youth. The report showed that of youths interviewed, 21% of females and 14% of males reported that they seriously considered attempting suicide within a 12 month period. Of this number 17% actually had a definite plan how they would carry out the act. These statistics are not to be taken lightly. Picture the impact of this situation if such a youth presents before a health-care worker who does not appear to understand the mental health issue. The problem can be further compounded.
The Ministry of Health is therefore currently researching international best practice in order to launch a national adolescent substance misuse treatment programme. This is indeed an indication of our Government’s commitment to treating with this aspect of mental health head-on. These steps are vitally necessary if our country is to move forward, to improve in the recognition, diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders and to promote mental health.