BHB Launch Mental Health Awareness Week

October 10, 2016

Mental Health Awareness Week was officially launched today [Oct 10], with an aim to support those in our community who are experiencing mental illness.

BHB CEO Venetta Symonds said, “Thank you everyone for attending today: Minister Atherden, Canon Francis, staff and management.

“Before the Minister officially launches this week, I wanted to recognize the hard work undertaken by BHB staff members and specifically MWI staff in helping our community.

“They work with very vulnerable individuals, who are often misunderstood and marginalised in the community.

“The MWI Team works around the clock, because mental health crises and needs do not keep to a weekday schedule.

“They are needed in the community, so they go to homes, park benches, or attend Emergency when their community members requiring mental health support present there.

“They speak up for people who are not always listened to. They see that each of us is worthy of honour and respect, no matter whether we have a home, money, family, or debilitating mental health challenges. How we treat each other is important.

“And as has been quoted as far back as the bible, through to Ghandi – and I paraphrase many different quotes out there – the measure of our society is how we treat our most vulnerable members. This is not an inherent measure of a society.

Left to right is: Canon James Francis, Morrisa Rogers [Clinical Supervisor, Allied Health Services, MWI], Minister of Health & Seniors, Jeanne Atherden, Venetta Symonds [CEO, BHB], Chantelle Simmons [Chief of Psychiatry] and Patrice Dill [Chief Operating Officer, MWI].

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“Education and open discussion are concrete ways for us to encourage the best out of our community so they also can see the dignity and humanity in those who suffer from mental illness.

“MWI staff members have been in the vanguard of promoting mental health education over many, many years.

“They offer weekly educational sessions that community members attend, they present in various forums, they establish mental health first aid training for the general public, they run family groups, for the last ten years they have put on an art and photo exhibition of service users’ work to change the dialogue around mental health, and every year they work hard to promote Mental Health Awareness Week.

“Under the new BHB Strategic Plan Mental Health Services will continue to strengthen to best meet Bermuda’s current and future needs. So thank you BHB, Community Partners and MWI Team for all you do.

“I am very pleased to ask the Honorable Minister to launch this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week.

Minister of Health & Seniors Jeanne Atherden said, “I am pleased to be here at Mid-Atlantic Wellness Institute to talk about how we can support those in our community who are experiencing mental illness.

“At least one in four adults will experience mental health difficulties in their lifetime. Mental health diseases are treatable through a range of therapies, sometimes in combination with medication.

“It is unlikely there is anyone who has not had direct contact with a friend, colleague or family member experiencing mental health difficulties. For those living with mental illness, or family and friends who are wondering how to get a loved one the help they need, the stigma and discrimination against mental illness can be a barrier to seeking help.

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“This stigma means many people receive little or no help in mental health emergencies.

“In contrast, the majority of people who present with a medical emergency such as a heart attack, asthma attack or stroke, will be offered physical first aid. More than that, they will be offered sympathy for what they are suffering.

“If we are to treat mental health and physical health equally we need to increase the number of people in the community trained in mental health first aid. This is an issue of equal treatment for illness—physical or mental.

“Psychological and emotional distress can happen to anyone anywhere. And just like medical emergencies, sometimes it is a matter of life and death.

“Every 40 seconds somebody somewhere in the world dies by suicide and, globally, young people are disproportionately affected.

“It is the second leading cause of death among people aged 10 to 24 in the US. Recent figures from the UK note that there was a 35% rise in adults reporting severe symptoms of common mental disorders between 1993 and 2014.

“In Bermuda, the number of service users seen in the Mid-Atlantic Wellness Institute Acute Care Clinic – which is the main referral site to MWI— rose 137% between 2010 and 2015, from 300 to over 700.

“While more money is important, it is not enough. As a famously supportive community where everyone tries to look out for everyone else, we need to be better at responding to a person in crisis.

“Mental Health First Aid is training for anyone on how to approach, support and assist someone in distress from a mental illness.

“This does not replace professional psychological and psychiatric services. Mental health first aid, just like physical health first aid, can help someone in the first instance until they can access additional assessment and treatment.

“I fully endorse this training, and support the goal to make it as accessible and popular as physical first aid. Training includes recognition of signs and symptoms and how to support someone who is experiencing a mental health emergency.

“I urge employers to consider sending their managers and staff to this training make their workplaces more supportive. It improves productivity, encourages supportive workplaces, and reduces absenteeism.

“I encourage schools and educational institutions to make mental health first aid available to their staff and students.

“Members of the community, consider doing the training – it might help you at work, with your teams, your colleagues or if you deal with the public; at home, with family and friends; and even if you are out in the community and see someone in distress. In the end it is down to each and every one of us to make the world a better place.

“This is why the international theme for this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is “Mental Health First Aid for All”. And it is why I am very honoured to launch this week.

“There are now 380 people in Bermuda who have taken advantage of mental health first aid training since it was launched by the Mid-Atlantic Wellness Institute in Bermuda in 2012. This is an excellent course and I would really love to see those numbers increase, so that there are more people out there ready to help when help is needed.

“For this reason, I am pledging right here, right now, to complete the training myself, supported by the CEO of the hospital, Ms Venetta Symonds, and my Permanent Secretary, Jennifer Attride-Stirling. The three of us will complete the training in the hope of encouraging others in the community to also get trained.

“I hope this week’s focus on why this training is so important will inspire many more to book a space. Chances are you know someone who will have an episode of mental illness.

“And with that, I formally launch Mental Health Awareness Week 2016.”

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