October 23, 2019

The Editor Speaks Mental health

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Today (Wed 10 Oct) is World Mental Day.

Did you give it a thought in your busy schedule?

Did you read Cayman Islands Minister of Health, Dwayne Seymour’s Message we published today?

I hope you did.

This year’s theme is “Young people and mental health in a changing world”.

Yes. Mental health doesn’t start when we get old and senile. It affects our youth.

Seymour writes,

“Adolescence and young adulthood are a time of when we experience many changes very close together. Examples include changing schools, leaving home, starting university or a new job, sometimes even starting a family.
“At the same time young people’s bodies and minds are also undergoing considerable shifts. These changes impact their understanding of the world and their place in it, often in ways that set the pattern for the rest of their life.
“In many instances such change can be exhilarating but in others it can cause stress and apprehension. In some cases, if not recognised and managed, these feelings lead to mental illness.
“We know that half of all mental illness begins by the age of 14. Meanwhile suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15-29-year-olds. Globally, , illicit drug use, risky behavior and eating disorders are common among this age group.”

How many of you readers knew that?

I didn’t.

The Minister highlights:
“The Health Services Authority also has a great team that provides mental health services. In addition the foundation has recently taken on the task of eradicating the stigma associated with mental illness. The work of the group Silent Loud Voices further offers tremendous support to families of persons with mental health challenges. All of this work is invaluable.”
And:
“From a Government standpoint my Ministry is steadily moving closer towards a long term residential mental health facility that will allow persons to benefit from such treatment on island surrounded by their family and friends.”

I’m not sure everyone who cares for mental health patients will agree that the progress is moving closer fast enough to the “long term residential mental health facility”.

It certainly hasn’t been the hot topic dominating the local air waves or the media. Mental health is a subject that has the word “stigma” tied to it. People with mental health problems say that the social stigma attached to mental ill health and the discrimination they experience can make their difficulties worse and make it harder to recover.

A very serious problem is one in twelve of the whole population of the United Kingdom, according to the website – mentalhealth.org.uk, suffers from DEPRESSION. Depression is a leading factor towards serious mental health problems leading especially to suicidal thoughts.

Despite these high figures mental health is a subject few of us want to admit to or even discuss.

This is because society in general has stereotyped views about mental illness and how it affects people. Many people believe that people with mental ill health are violent and dangerous, when in fact they are more at risk of being attacked or harming themselves than harming other people.

If you admit to someone you have even have had a mental health problem, let alone you have one now, see how they react.

Would you find work or be socially accepted in mainstream society?

We, in the media, are not much help either. Our reports often link mental illness with violence, or portray people with mental health problems as dangerous, criminal, evil, or very disabled and unable to live normal, fulfilled lives.

Whilst other countries like the UK and the USA are doing great work to try and change public attitudes to mental illness it is a very hard slog here.

Is there any legislation here that makes it illegal to discriminate directly or indirectly against people with mental health problems in public services and functions, access to premises, work, education, associations and transport?

If there is, Minister Seymour did not highlight it in his Message.

George Town MLA, Kenneth Bryan is a regular on the radio airwaves complaining about anything and everything except this topic. I wonder why?

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