Mental health care needs support

Mental health care needs support

Monday, November 11, 2019

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Dear Editor,

The following is an open letter to Minister of Health and Wellness Dr Christopher Tufton:

I am happy to learn that the Ministry of Health and Wellness has started a public relations programme in the print and electronic media geared at removing stigma from mental illness.

This is a commendable move; however, much more bold moves will have to be made to remove shame from mental illness.

Community mental health is almost 20 years old. But unless you provide the required resources to effectively aid psychiatric and community mental health care no amount of public advertisement to destigmatise mental illness will make sense.

The Ministry of Health has abandoned the old practice of institutionalising people and has placed psychiatric care in the general hospital. The problem is that the tools needed to accommodate and care for the mentally ill are not readily available.

Minister Tufton, the sector is in dire need of mental health social workers and officers, satellite clinics, intermediate care facilities, crisis response teams, increased medication and psychiatric aides as well as mobile units. Additionally, the Mental Health Act needs to be amended and brought in line with First World standards.

I am recommending the following, Minister:

* Provide a stipend for all families with mental health patients. Some of the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH) money can be diverted to this cause.

* Set a minimum standard regarding the number of psychiatric aides in relation to the number of mental health patients.

* Amend the Mental Health Act and create an affirmative Act that ensures the fair treatment of mentally ill individuals.

* Increase awareness through partnerships.

I think your heart is in the right place, Minister Tufton, but you will have to exercise bold leadership and go the full distance if you are serious about improvements in mental health care.

Andre Wellington

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