Improving mental health
As key mental health stakeholders meet over the next two days to draw up a plan of action to broaden mental health services, Minister of Health Donville Inniss has called on the media and members of the public to exercise good judgment in publicising incidents involving persons who might be experiencing a medical crisis.
He was at the time delivering the feature address at the start of the workshop being held at Island Inn Hotel to move the Draft Mental Health Policy to the implementation stage of a National Strategic Mental Health Plan. The workshop was designed to facilitate a multi-disciplinary approach to planning for the various health, social and economic factors that impact on mental health and the delivery of services.
Inniss noted that the protection and promotion of human rights was one of the key principles which guided the development of legislation, policy, plans and programmes and services directed to benefit persons affected by mental disorders. He, however, emphasised that there is a role for individuals and the media to play.
“There is, however, the need for members of the media to continue to exercise good judgment in reporting or publicising incidents involving persons who might be experiencing medical crises. If persons are observed in public behaving in a manner that is not ordinarily expected, there should be a moral responsibility to seek immediate help for that individual rather than to publish a picture of that person in a crisis situation.
“It is not expected that an individual who happens to be experiencing any other medical emergency would be exposed in such a manner,” he asserted.
Inniss suggested that treating mental illness like any other medical condition was a crucial step in removing the stigma, discrimination and the eventual alienation experienced by persons who in reality were our neighbours, friends and relatives.
He added: “We have in this society reached a point where individuals would witness an incident … and would be quick to take out their cell phone and take a photograph, and send it all over the place. They will not call for help but they are very quick to take a photograph of that individual in that crisis and publicise it all over the place, on Facebook, on BB [BlackBerry Messenger], whatever.
“I think that is unfortunate and I hope that Barbadians would use the modern technology for good and not seek to embarrass them, particularly when they are having a medical crisis. It is reprehensible and it could happen to any one of us at any point in time.”
The minister noted that the right to employment, educational opportunities, the availability of housing or other social and health care services were also fundamental privileges that should be afforded to all.
He said: “When persons experienced difficulty in being allowed to resume their jobs after recuperating from a mental illness, they are being deprived of a basic human right.”
Implicit in such a comprehensive approach, the official stated, was the rehabilitation and reintegration of individuals, particularly those who have been institutionalised for extended periods of time.
“We need to get to the point in this society where people stop believing that once you have spent a little time behind the green gates at Black Rock [the Psychiatric Hospital], that you are ‘mad’ for the rest of your life,” he said.
The media was acknowledged as an invaluable partner in the promotion of good mental health and according to the health minister, through information being disseminated to the general public, people’s attitudes were changing and the inherent stigma and discrimination associated with mental illness was being reversed.
At the conclusion of the workshop, a core group will meet to review the discussions and recommendations and draw up guidelines for the final drafting of a strategic plan.