September 25, 2021

Cayman Islands: World Mental Health Day

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hrc-chairman-james-austin-smith-presents-mental-health-booklet-to-mhc-chairman-dr-marc-lockhartStatement on World Mental Health Day 10 October, 2016: ‘Psychological First Aid’

10 October was World Mental Health Day. This year’s theme, selected by the World Federation for Mental Health (the “WFMH”), is ‘Psychological First Aid’. Psychological first aid is described as the provision of “a humane, supportive and practical response to people suffering exposure to serious stressors and who may need support. It is an approach to help people recover by responding to their basic needs and showing them concern and care, in a way that respects their wishes, culture, dignity and capabilities.”

Many mental health issues are viewed with stigma and discrimination, often due to a lack of education and understanding; therefore the aim of this year’s theme is to assist the public to:
* “Learn how to provide basic psychological and mental health first aid so that they can provide support to distressed individuals in the same way as they do in physical health crises;
* Address the stigma associated with mental ill-health so that dignity is promoted and respected;
* Empower people to take action to promote mental health;
* Spread understanding of the equal importance of mental and physical health and their integration in care and treatment;
* To work with individuals and institutions to develop best practice in psychological and mental health first aid; and
* To provide culturally sensitive learning materials to increase the skills of the general public in administering psychological and mental health first aid.”

In Cayman, a report released by the Ministry of Health on 13 May 2015 entitled World Health Organisation Assessment Instrument for Mental Health Systems (WHO-AIMS) revealed that approximately 4,000 people had accessed government and private mental health outpatient services in 2013. The majority (72%) were diagnosed with schizophrenia, mood (affective) disorders, or neurotic/stress related disorders. As these numbers only reflect those people who have sought treatment there likely to be many more in our community who are suffering in silence. Given the severe difficulties faced by those trying to deal with mental health issues without professional support this is a cause for real concern.

The report also indicated several areas of weakness in provision of mental health care, including; the need for a proper mental health policy; the limited capacity of our inpatient units; the lack of a long-term residential facility; the need to increase the number of mental health professionals, especially for treating young people; the requirement for more consistent and robust data collection; and the absence of training in human rights for health sector employees.

To that end, following the release of the report the Mental Health Commission (the “MHC”) expressed an interest in partnering with the Human Rights Commission (the “Commission”) to assist with the training of mental health practitioners in human rights. With guidance from the Chairman of the MHC, the Commission has published a booklet which details the rights most relevant to mental health professionals and provides information on best practices in the treatment of persons dealing with mental health issues.

Chairman James Austin-Smith indicated; “the Commission welcomes the opportunity to assist the MHC in their endeavours to strengthen human rights education for mental health professionals”. He continued; “Cayman is not immune to mental health concerns and those who suffer from mental health difficulties and their families should be afforded access to the same rights as other individuals”. Agreeing, Chairman of the MHC, Dr Marc Lockhart, thanked the Commission for the production of the booklet and indicated that the MHC was grateful for the work of the Commission and looked forward to the opportunity for future collaboration.

Persons who are interested in learning more about psychological first aid can visit the WHO website at

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