President Paula Mae Weekes said officials must rethink mental health, address harmful misconceptions and stigmas and commit to the enhancement and development of mental health systems and services.
In commemoration of World Mental Health Day 2021 today, she noted that the World Health Organization defined good mental health as more than just the absence of mental disorders or disabilities.
In her message to the nation, she said: “It is a state of well-being in which an individual realises his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and is able to make a contribution to his or her community,” she said.
With almost one billion people suffering from a mental health disorder, Weekes said depression remains a leading cause of disability worldwide.
“An estimated annual US$1 trillion loss in productivity to the global economy as a result of depression and anxiety,” she said.
Weekes pointed out that “the COVID-19 pandemic has had a deleterious effect on mental health.”
She added, “Job and income loss, interruption to education and academic goals, social isolation, fear of contracting the virus, bereavement and the overall uncertainty surrounding the pandemic have caused many people to experience stress, anxiety and depression.”
She said the provision of mental health services has also been disrupted by the pandemic.
“Despite the heavy toll and far-reaching effects of poor mental health, there remains an undeniable and yawning gap between demand for mental health services and their supply, due largely to underinvestment in mental health infrastructure,” she said.
She noted that the taboo associated with mental health diseases must also be removed.
“Many people who need mental health care do not seek or receive it because of biases and misunderstandings about what care entails, and as a result, their mental health problems go undiagnosed and untreated,” she added.
“Many people are hesitant to seek assessment and treatment due to prevailing social stigmas. It is high time that we have difficult but important conversations that will demystify and destigmatise mental health and allow people to seek help or offer their support to others in need of treatment.”
She called on citizens to reject the social taboos which hamper the diagnosis and care of mental health problems and promote, protect and take care of our mental health.
Those in need of further information on mental health care can contact the mental health unit of the Ministry of Health, at 285-9126 extension 2573 or email [email protected]