Nevis joins international community to observe World Mental Health Day 2021

Hon. Hazel Brandy Williams, Junior Minister of Health in the Nevis Island Administration
Hon. Hazel Brandy Williams, Junior Minister of Health in the Nevis Island Administration

NIA CHARLESTOWN NEVIS (October 10, 2021) — The following is an address by Hon. Hazel Brandy-Williams, Junior Minister of Health in the Nevis Island Administration (NIA) as Nevis joins with the international community to observe World Mental Health Day 2021 on October 10.

We are all familiar with the adage, there is no health without mental health. Mental health is a vital public health issue that has become even more relevant during this COVID-19 pandemic.

COVID-19 not only threatens physical health but has also negatively affected many people’s mental health. Health care workers, students, people living alone, and those with pre-existing mental health conditions, have been particularly affected.

We have seen that the pandemic has had a profound impact on the mental health of our people of all ages. Now more than ever, it is critical to reduce the stigma around mental health, because that stigma often prevents individuals from seeking help.

It has become evident that the loss of love ones, social constraints, business closures, loss of income and the overall economic uncertainty has exacerbated the situation for many people, especially those with pre-existing mental illnesses.

To this end, financial stress has been identified as a major trigger of some mental health conditions. Research from prior economic recessions shows that job loss is associated with increased depression, anxiety, distress, and low self-esteem and can lead to higher rates of substance use, disorder, and even suicide.

Depression is a common illness worldwide with an estimated 280 million persons affected. Although mental health disorders remain widely under-reported, data from our Psychiatric Unit shows Schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety and Substance Abuse are leading causes of mental illness in Nevis.

All of these conditions can contribute to poor mental health and can be quite debilitating to those affected. Sadly, there continues to be an unmet need in the care of people with mental health disorders, and they together with their families continue to experience stigma and discrimination.

The theme for this year’s world Mental Health Day campaign is “Mental health care for all: let’s make it a reality”.

This is a call to action for all of us to advance the mental health narrative and agenda by focusing on improving awareness, support and treatment for those affected.

Mental health is a priority area of the Sustainable Development Goals. Goal number 3 “good health and wellbeing”, target 3.5 speaks to the “Strengthening, prevention and treatment of substance abuse” which is of utmost importance particularly at this time, when many turn to the use of substances as a coping mechanism.

The World Health Assembly held in May of this year impressed upon world leaders to recognize the need to scale up quality mental health services at all levels. The updated Comprehensive Mental Health Action Plan 2013-2030, further sets out clear actions for Member States, the WHO [World Health Organization] Secretariat, international, regional and national partners to promote mental health and well-being for all. This is in an effort to prevent mental health conditions for those at-risk, and to achieve universal coverage for mental health services”.

Mental Health Care for All; let’s make it a reality. First take care of yourself, as taking care of yourself can better equip you to take care of others around you. Maintain a healthy diet, get adequate sleep and exercise. Avoid using alcohol and drugs as a way of dealing with fear, anxiety, boredom and social isolation. Learning to cope with stress in a healthy way will make you, the people you care for, and those around you become more resilient.

There are so many things we cannot control at this time.  However, there is no cost for us to create a more caring community that supports mental well-being and happiness. Together, let us care for each other.

Thank you.

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