Today’s Editorial December 09: Focus on mental health

Tomorrow is International Human Rights Day and this year the World Health Organization is putting its focus on mental illness.

While much has been done in the Cayman Islands to help those with mental illness and their families, more can be done.

Unfortunately many people still believe that mental illness is somehow caused by emotional weakness, by sinful or immoral behaviour, or just by the individual who just needs to get himself together.

Mental illness is real and requires specific treatment.

WHO chose mental illness as its focus because people with mental disorders face an alarming range of human rights abuses in countries throughout the world.

Those of us living in the Cayman Islands can read the words from Mr. Alden McLaughlin, chairman of the Cayman Islands Human Rights Committee, as he reassures us that Government is very much concerned and is doing something about human rights in this country.

Coping mentally and countering bad health behaviours should be the shared responsibility of us all – Government, communities, schools and health care professionals.

That became extremely evident after the passage of Hurricane Ivan in September last year.

That storm taught us about the connection between healthy minds and healthy bodies. We learned that complete recovery must involve mental recuperation.

We saw health deteriorate after the storm and it’s safe to say that much of that was due, in part, to the mental load each of us had to carry.

More than 450 million people throughout the world have mental, neurological or behavioural problems according to WHO.

We don’t know the exact number of people who suffer from mental illness in the Cayman Islands, but it is real and can be seen in just about every community.

But no one should go ignored or untreated.

The Cayman Islands Health and Human Services offers an array of mental health services that anyone in this country can employ.

Those with mental illness may not realize they need help so it is important that everyone in the community offer encouragement and support.

When it comes to good mental health, we are all our brother’s keeper.