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Landmark Mental Health Workshop Held

Minister of Health Anthony Eden, OBE, JP and Chief Officer of Health Diane Montoya share a light moment with PAHO mental health consultant Dr Devora Kestel.

Government and private mental health professionals and other representatives with a direct role in providing mental health services, as well as those who serve the emotional and spiritual needs in the community, gathered last weekend (8 and 9 May) for an unprecedented workshop that will lay the groundwork for the development of a National Mental Health Framework for the Cayman Islands.

The workshop was organised by the Ministry of Health and Human Services in collaboration with the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Health Services of the HSA, and drew 46 representatives from across the board including educators, social workers and clergy.

"We wanted to bring people throughout this broad field together to reflect on Cayman's historical and current experience in the mental health field. We hope to gain a better understanding of the contribution of mental, emotional and spiritual wellness to the overall well-being and development of the community," explained Chief Officer of Health Diane Montoya.

She added that the ministry aims to make the review of mental health services a priority: "If we really want to achieve our mission of ensuring optimal well-being for all, we have to pay more attention to mental health and develop a concerted, national plan," she said.

The ministry invited Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) regional mental health consultant Dr Devora Kestel, to serve as facilitator.

Dr Kestel, on her first visit to the Cayman Islands, said her first impression was that Cayman had a strong mental health system in place. However, she applauded the move to have a workshop now with the view of first drafting a National Mental Health Policy. "A country must have a clear policy as part of a plan that will guide the provision of services in the future, because as we all know resources are limited and demand grows," she explained.

Health Services Authority's Consultant Psychiatrist Dr Mark Lockhart who led the introductory session called the workshop "an historic event" that pools the knowledge and insights of various stakeholders: "This is the start of a process - the first step on a journey to good mental health for all," he said.

A National Mental Health Framework - the Objectives

  • To provide a framework for process and outcome evaluation
  • To set minimum standards to update and modernise our mental health law
  • To assess changes in the system of mental health care
  • To provide a policy framework which incorporates comprehensive health promotion, a public education strategy, and a service delivery plan that will encompass prevention, treatment, rehabilitation care, and recovery
  • To provide for a system of surveillance and a national data/information system which gathers accurate statistics for better allocation of resources and recognition of public health trends
  • To provide a human resources plan to adequately prepare for and identify personnel needed for seamless service provision
  • To establish a dedicated initiative that will collectively tackle stigma, discrimination and inequality, and that will empower and support people (and their families) grappling with mental health problems, so that they can be actively engaged in this process

Source: Ministry of Health and Human Services.

For further information contact: Cornelia Oliver