Junior Health Minister Brandy-Williams delivers address for World Mental Health Day 2019

NIA CHARLESTOWN NEVIS (October 10, 2019) — The following is an address delivered by Hon. Hazel Brandy-Williams, Junior Minister of Health and Gender Affairs in the Nevis Island Administration on the occasion of World Mental Health Day 2019 observed on October 10, 2019. The theme is “Together we can prevent suicides.”

The 10th of October 2019 is World Mental Health Day. The celebration of this day across the world, aims to increase awareness of the importance of mental health and the issues surrounding mental health conditions.

When we speak of mental health we refer to how we feel, think, behave and interact with each other on a daily basis.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) further describes good mental health as a ‘state of well-being’ where ‘every person can realize his or her full potential as a human being, cope with the normal stresses of everyday life, and be productive and fruitful’  while ‘contributing to the community in which he or she lives’.

This year, the focus is on suicide prevention. Suicide is the act of deliberately killing oneself and this has become a grave public health concern. The WHO estimates that suicide accounts annually for about 800 000 deaths globally. This translates to one person dying every 40 seconds. It is also estimated that for every death from suicide there are 20 other persons attempting suicide.

Suicide can occur at any time during the life course. Data shows that, adolescents and men over the age of 70 years are at higher risk of dying by suicide.

The rates of suicide in young people around the world is troubling as data shows that youth contribute to one third of all suicide deaths. Alarmingly, suicide is the 2nd cause of death in teens and young adults in the 15 – 29 age group.

Sadly, youth around the world face a number of challenges that make them vulnerable to suicide. Poverty, migration, war, bullying, violence, natural disasters, among other traumatic, life changing events; coupled with mental health conditions such as depression, substance abuse and inadequate mental health services can lead to injurious outcomes.

Mental health and managing mental health issues such as suicide continue to be challenging for many countries around the world. The stigma associated with mental health conditions often discourages persons from seeking care which leads to under-reporting. In some cases, the resources are non-existent, or limited. To further compound the problem, mental health programmes compete with more prevalent health issues and may not be seen as a priority.

In Nevis, data from the Mental Health Unit indicates that there are 643 persons on register with various mental health illnesses. Between the years 2001 and 2013, there were 10 deaths by suicide. Although the figures may be small in comparison to other countries, each death has profound long-lasting impacts on families, friends and communities.

There is hope however. Suicide can be prevented. Each loss by suicide is a failure to help someone who was in need. We all have a role to play in the prevention of suicide. Efforts by our health services through education and training, and social support at all levels, must increase.

However, prevention requires a multisectoral approach to manage the risk factors which include: biological factors such as chronic illnesses and pain, psychological, social and cultural factors. The various organizations of our society, such as schools, businesses, religious groups, media, etc. are encouraged to assist and support the health services in areas of research, advocacy, raising awareness, early identification and intervention.

The Ministry of Health and Gender Affairs continues to support the Mental Health programme on the island. Despite challenges with physical space and human resources, the health care providers continue to provide care for all seeking help. I take this opportunity to commend the staff for the hard work that they perform on a daily basis to ensure that their clients’ needs are met in a safe and confidential environment.

I would like to make an appeal to all our citizens who have an interest in the field of psychology, counselling, social work, nursing or medicine to consider pursuing specialized careers in mental health. This will help us to bolster our human resource capacity and to further develop our mental health services.

In observance of World Mental Health Day, the Mental Health Unit has planned a number of activities. I encourage the general public to support these activities.

In closing, I leave with you recommendations from the World Health Organization for good mental health practices:

  • Be Active
  • Eat Healthy
  • Enjoy walks with your family and friends
  • Try to get 8 hours of sleep everyday
  • Be open to speaking about your feelings with someone you trust
  • Look for professional help if you or someone else you know need it.

Together we can prevent suicide and save lives.

Thank you.

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