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World Mental Health Day

Hon Mark Scotland, MLA

Minister of Health, Environment, Youth, Sports and Culture

The Hon. Mark Scotland, JP,

World Mental Health Day Message

As we celebrate World Mental Health Day in the Cayman Islands this year, we are reminded of disquieting statistics produced by the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO).

Mental disorders account for some 24% of diseases in our region and of these, depression is by far the most prevalent.

In addition, the regional health organization warns of a strong link between mental illness and poor long-term health.

Many still perceive mental health issues as belonging on the periphery of health care, particularly since they feel that the numbers involved are limited to only a small percentage of the total population. However, these PAHO findings should dispel that myth and at the same time serve as a wake up call to make mental healthcare far more accessible to everyone.

Sound mental health is vital to optimal well-being and just as we guard our physical health, we should also be mindful of our - and others' - mental health. And in this regard, I do commend our local mental health practitioners who are already working towards integrating mental and physical treatments, to the benefit of all patients.

However, while health practitioners are recognizing mental disorders as a prominent health concern, the truth is that for too long, authorities in this region have underestimated the prevalence, impact, and associated costs of mental illness.

This has led to deficiencies in treatment. But it has also resulted in a public awareness gap that has in turn led to stigma and stereotyping that so often seriously undermine effective management and recovery.

Recognizing the need for a new approach, my ministry appointed a Mental Health Taskforce in May this year. Comprising educators, psychologists, social workers, nurses, police and physicians in both public and private sectors, these taskforce members are drafting a National Mental Health Policy, in addition to reviewing local legislation.

The ultimate goal is to produce a legal framework that will better protect patients and reflect statistical trends, as well as accommodate advances in psychiatric treatments.

There are no quick fixes and for the foreseeable future, mental illness will continue to challenge individuals, society and government.

But even as health officials and others work towards introducing dynamic solutions, you too can help curb the negative impact of mental illness. Just make a point to access care if you feel you need it, join the awareness drive, or help a friend get through depression.

Mental health is everyone's business. For as the Chief Executive Officer of the World Federation for Mental Health, Vijay Ganju so wisely noted: "The bottom line is that there is no health without mental health."

For further information contact: Cornelia Oliver