The Cayman Islands will join the World Health Organization in observing the 20th anniversary of World Mental Health Day on Wednesday, 10th October, 2012. The observance of this day serves to raise public awareness about mental health issues and is a time to feel part of an international community with similar concerns.
This year, the theme for the day is Depression: A Global Crisis. Here in the Cayman Islands, depression accounts for 50 per cent of mental illnesses and approximately 10 per cent of the population experiences some type of mental illness. Globally, depression affects more than 350 million people of all ages in all communities and is a significant contributor to the global burden of disease. At its worst, depression can lead to suicide. Almost 1 million people take their own lives each year because of being depressed. Although there are known effective treatments for depression, access to treatment is a problem in most countries, and in some countries fewer than 10 per cent of those who need it receive such treatment.
Since taking up office as minister of Health, I have established a Mental Health Taskforce, firstly, to review the Mental Health Law and secondly, to develop a National Mental Health Policy. The review of the law is nearing completion thanks to the hard work of a dedicated team of individuals representing the private and public sectors.
In the past, persons were reluctant to admit mental illness in themselves or their families because of stigma and discrimination. Persons were afraid to seek help. Thankfully, this is beginning to change as more persons become more vocal, advocating for their loved ones and looking for ways to gather support.
Let us remember that mental health is an integral part of our health; indeed there is no health without mental health. It is the foundation for an individual’s well-being and the promotion of good mental health helps people to maintain healthy lifestyles.
Let us as a country continue to promote mental health in our young children, our youth, our men and women, our schools and our communities.
I would like to take this opportunity to applaud the efforts of our mental health practitioners in the government and private sectors. Their efforts help to improve the lives of persons affected by mental illness and to encourage people to seek help.
Finally, I leave you with a quote, from a joint statement of the World Federation for Mental Health and the NGO Forum for Health and Alliance for Health Promotion, read at the 64th World Health Assembly held in Geneva, May 2011: “Mental illnesses are not only a risk factor for other non communicable diseases, but are often a consequence of having diabetes, cancers, cardiovascular diseases and respiratory diseases. Without addressing mental illnesses explicitly, outcomes related to NCD initiatives will not only be less effective, but also, as the research shows, will cost more.
For example, we know that diabetics have twice the risk of being depressed as non-diabetics; and treating both diabetes and depression results in improved medication adherence and lower health care costs. If depression is addressed, outcomes improve and medical expenditures are reduced.”
I encourage everyone to embrace a healthy lifestyle, take the necessary steps to care for their emotional well-being and support those among us who suffer from mental illness.
Minister of Health, Environment, Youth, Sports and Culture