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Call for more awareness of mental health

The awareness of mental health is much greater today when compared to previous years.

However, in an interview with Barbados TODAY recently at a presentation held at the Psychiatric hospital in Black Rock, Senior Consultant Psychiatrist with the Ministry of Health, Dr Ermine Belle, stated there was much work yet to be done.

That work, she indicated was to further decrease the stigma associated with persons who were afflicted by the disease. She said that while it was a norm for people to only access situations that affect them, there was a need for the entire society to realize that mental health affected everyone.

“We try hard to make people understand that today is mine and tomorrow is yours. But it is not until that day comes that they become conscious of the fact that this is what other people suffer. This is the pain that they inflict on them by being so callous and uncaring because somebody has some type of psychological emotional mental illness,” she said.

The psychiatrist noted that the institution’s aim was to keep mental health in focus and to ultimately lower the number of in-patients
to nought. She admitted that although it might seem idealistic, such a goal could be achieved, as proven by Belize. That was why emphasis must be placed on community health care, she said, adding that such efforts had worked thus far with numbers reducing gradually over the years by almost 300.

“[I] have to say we because it is a collective [effort]. It is how we manage people inside and when they go back outside they can stay. The thrust of the whole community situation in mental health is that we should not have a mental hospital; we should have a situation if possible where everybody can be treated in the community in an environment where they are comfortable and happy and that they should get back to being their normal selves in their normal environment as soon as possible after they have a mental break or some kind of psychological negative impact from their health.

“But if we can get to a situation where this institution can be reduced by 300 people we would have done wonderful things and that is the aim – that we reduce the situation and stop people from coming in so much.”

Belle added: “I have been in mental health for 36 years and I can say to you everything in its time. We want to make things happen over night, we want magic sometimes but you can only get people to a point when they are ready to reach that point and I have seen over the years a situation where we would have never seen some ethnic groups, some cultural groups, some social class groups in this institution.

“Right now we don’t have any barriers. There are people in all those groups who yes may not want to come and be identified but there are people from every single group who will bring a loved one here because they know they cannot manage outside. They know they have to come where they are trained people who will be able to handle the situation properly.

“The awareness is much greater and people have appreciated that there are people who are trained and who can help them to get past these problems. The stigma is not as strong as it was before,” she told Barbados TODAY.

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