Minister of Health, Dr. the Hon. Duane Sands explained that as the world comes to grips with increasing incidences of political, economic and personal instability, violence, discrimination, and near-constant traumatic events, mental illness among global populations continues to rise. Dr. Sands said, “Here in The Bahamas, the all-too-common sight of persons affected by substance abuse disorders, neurological conditions or mental health problems living in conditions of homelessness, poverty and desperate want, serves as clear evidence of the need to focus national attention on mental health issues and mental health services.” The Health Minister was speaking at the World Mental Health Day Symposium held at the Franklyn R. Wilson Centre at the University of The Bahamas, Wednesday, October 10, 2018.
He noted that across the globe healthcare is defined as, “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” He said mental health includes an individual’s emotional, psychological, and social well-being, and is a component of the total definition of healthcare. “It is therefore incumbent upon us all to use forums such as this World Mental Health Day symposium to foster an acceptance that good mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through to adulthood. It is important that we raise the prominence of mental health across the health spectrum in our conversations, our messaging and our interactions.” Dr. Sands said an essential element of this public drive is the need to address the twin issues of stigma and discrimination aimed at those who suffer from, or who are affected by mental illness.
He noted that far too many persons affected by emotional, mental or substance abuse disorders are overlooked because there are no obvious signs of their distress. “These persons too require access to appropriate care by mental health service providers. According to the World Health Organization, 14 percent of the global burden of disease is attributed to mental, neurological, and substance use disorders. Despite this, most of the people affected — 75 percent in many low-income countries do not have access to the treatment they need.” The Health Minister added, “It comes as no surprise then, that mental and substance use disorders are the leading cause of disability worldwide. About 23 percent of all years lost because of disability are caused by mental and substance use disorders.” He explained that experts have also advised that around 20 percent of the world’s children and adolescents have mental disorders or problems; half of the mental disorders begin before the age of 14. Dr. Sands said researchers have noted similar types of disorders are being reported across cultures and languages. “Neuropsychiatric disorders are among the leading causes of worldwide disability in young people. This is why the World Federation for Mental Health is focusing the 2018 WMH (World Mental Health) DAY campaign on ‘Young People and Mental Health in a Changing World’.”
He said, “The Bahamas joins with nations around the world today to bring attention to the issues our youth and young adults are facing globally and to have the conversation around what tools and support they need to grow up healthy, happy and resilient.” The Health Minister explained that the symposium was taking place because the best evidence demonstrates that effectively supporting people experiencing mental health problems can make a difference in improving access to care, improving the public understanding of mental illness and mental health issues, and lessens the fear, misunderstandings, discrimination, and stigma faced by those struggling with mental illness. He said the symposium will address the issues facing young people and cover some of the expansive research, stories, ideas, and programs available to help the next generations be strong and resilient in the face of hardship, life changes, discrimination, and loss.