Environment Minister calls on the community to extend love to persons with mental health issues

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(BIS Photo/Ulric Woodside)

The Hon. Vaughn Miller, Minister of the Environment and Natural Resources is appealing to the community and families of persons with challenged with mental health issues to offer love to them.

“I take this opportunity to encourage the families of persons suffering from such illness — and the community at large — to foster a greater spirit of compassion and understanding; extend love to those exhibiting signs of, or who have been diagnosed with, any form of mental illness. Remember:  But for the grace of God, where would we be? We recall the words of our Lord which says, “whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, you do unto me”.

Minister Miller, addressed the House of Assembly on  Mental Health Bill (2022) during a Communication to Parliament, Wednesday, November 23, 2022.

He told Parliamentarians that Mental Health and the Mental Health Bill (2022) is a matter that should be of “great” importance to all of them.
He described the Mental Health Bill (2022) as a “tremendous” improvement on the existing Legislation which has been in place from 1969.

“This Bill places much-needed attention on an area of our society which still has a stigma attached to it. It addresses many areas which include:  the safeguarding of the rights of persons diagnosed with or exhibiting symptoms of a mental illness; the protection of patients in facilities from mistreatment. It also, among other things, calls for the Minister of Health and Wellness to increase the number of programs to promote Mental Health and for such programs to be implemented in the education and labour sectors, while also addressing the human resource requirements of mental health services.”

He reflected on challenges that Bahamians have endured since 2019 due to COVID-19 pandemic, Hurricane Dorian and economic hardships which have resulted in loss of homes; children being removed from environments they were accustomed to, and having to adapt to homelessness or  living in shelters.

Said Minister Miller, “It is quite possible that these life altering storms would have led to many being diagnosed with, or have exhibited some form of mental illness.

“Hurricane Dorian and COVID-19 not only resulted in the loss of lives, but certainly a diminished capacity of life or state of existence which many have not been able to recover from despite the assistance offered by the Government through the Department of Social Services and other entities.

Resultantly, we now see a “new poor class” – some barely holding on to their homes while others have lost theirs in foreclosures; businesses that never were revived and their owners left with a great debt to repay.”

Minister Miller said the reality is that the simple pleasures of daily living are now impacted by fear — a fear of crime, an emotion which may not fall under the ambit of mental illness, but affects mental health.

Moreover, Minister Miller told Parliamentarians that to address mental health in the workplace, employees should:

– Have access to mental health resources, such as counselling services, employee assistance programs, and support groups; and 
– A healthy work-life balance as opposed to ridiculing the person.

“Safe and healthy working environments are not only a fundamental right but are also more likely to minimize tension and conflicts at work and improve staff retention, work performance and productivity.”

He called on Government and private agencies to create a “cultural norm” so that employees feel comfortable “coming forward” if they’re facing issues affecting their mental health.

He said leaders of Government ministries and private firms must equip themselves to be able to recognize mental illness in the workplace and be able to identify and recommend necessary resources to enable employees to obtain the help they need to address health issues.