Mental health stigma a barrier to recovery

Stigma towards people with mental illnesses continues to be a barrier to treatment and recovery, health minister Osbourne Bodden said this week in a message to mark World Mental Health Day in the Cayman Islands.

“The truth is that for too long, the associated stigma and stereotyping has seriously undermined effective management and recovery for persons living with this illness. This has even led to deficiencies in treatment,” the minister said.

Citing what he described as “shocking numbers” by the Pan American Health Organization, Mr. Bodden said mental disorders account for some 24 percent of diseases in the region, with depression being the most prevalent.

“Many still perceive mental health issues to be on the border of health care, particularly since they feel that the numbers involved are limited to only a small percentage of the total population. Yet the PAHO findings should dispel that myth and at the same time serve as a wake up call to make mental health care more accessible to everyone,” Mr. Bodden said.

The theme of this year’s Mental Health Day, which falls on Thursday, Oct. 10, is “Mental Health and Older Adults.” Mr. Bodden said the theme “could not have been more appropriate as we also celebrate our seniors throughout this month.”

“The contribution that these persons have already made to our society highlights the value to them, and to us, of ensuring that as they age their minds are agile and able to work towards the betterment of this country and its people,” he said.

Acknowledging that there are no quick fixes and that mental illness continue to be a “challenge for individuals, society and government”, Mr. Bodden said the recently appointed Mental Health Taskforce, consisting of educators, psychologists, social workers, nurses, police and physicians – in association with public education and community participation – would work towards increasing physical and mental health.

“Even as health officials and others work towards introducing dynamic solutions, members of the public too can help to curb the negative impact of mental illness. Whether you help a friend get through depression, start a conversation with an older person or just take some quiet time for yourself, make mental health your business,” Mr. Bodden said.