Event highlights mental health issues

By RIEL MAJOR

THE Bahamas Pharmaceutical Association yesterday held a symposium highlighting World Mental Health Day and promoting awareness of mental health issues.

Dr Wendy Fernander, president of the Bahamas Pharmaceutical Association, stressed the importance of having good mental health. The conference focused on public awareness of critical issues of mental illness present in youths.

Dr Fernander said: “Our young people face constant challenges and stressors – happening in their own lives and the world around them.

“Many of the problems facing our young people today such as bullying, suicide, the onset of mental illness, the effects of trauma and discrimination require our time and attention, awareness and compassion as well as new programmes and guidelines on how we can protect and empower the next generation.

“It is imperative that more services are developed to provide better care for young people and issues they are experiencing today. We all know that a young person with support, stability and the information will usually lead to a positive healthy adult.”

She continued: “The key factors for creating a healthier future for our young people are prevention, early intervention, resilience, available information and services.”

Health Minister Dr Duane Sands was in attendance and highlighted the increase of mental health issues and illness in the world.

Dr Sands stressed the importance of mental health at every stage in life, from childhood to adulthood.

The minister said: “Here in The Bahamas, the all too common signs 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.

“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 health,” he said.

“We would be naive to think that the youth and young adults of The Bahamas are immune to risks and effects of mental illnesses and substance abuse disorders.”

Based on the World Health Organisation, 14 percent of the global burden of diseases is attributed to mental, neurological, and substance use disorders. Professionals also suggested 20 percent of the world’s children and adolescents have mental disorders and about half of mental illnesses begin before the age of 14.

Dr Sands suggested mental illness greatly increases the risk of contracting other serious medical conditions such as HIV, diabetes, and heart disease.

The goal of the conference was to develop programmes to meet the needs of the Bahamian youth suffering from mental health issues and to remove the negative stigma towards mental illness.

The symposium was held at the University of The Bahamas.