Hon. Hazel Brandy-Williams, Junior Minister of Health on Nevis

CHARLESTOWN, Nevis -– Youth between 10- and 19-years-old face varied challenges and sometimes suffer with mental illness, according to Junior Minister of Health in the Nevis Island Administration (NIA). Mrs. Brandy-Williams explained Oct. 10 is World Mental Health Day and highlighted the need for heightened awareness of mental health issues around the globe.

“This year’s theme is “Young People and Mental Health in a Changing World,” Mrs. Brandy-Williams explained. “Issues of peer pressure, puberty, technology and natural disasters are cited by the World Health Organization (WHO) as some areas which can lead to anti-social behaviour.

“In fact, this organization states that half of all mental illness begins at age 14, but most cases remain undetected. In St. Kitts and Nevis, mental health in adolescence is also a reality.”

The junior minister pointed out, in addition to the aforementioned, alcohol and substance abuse are also issues of concern.

“These, among others, represent some of the cases that the Mental Health Unit addresses on a daily basis,” Mrs. Brandy-Williams said. “This Unit, although based at the Alexandra Hospital, runs a community-based programme, which manages clients in communities and clinics, which are held at its hospital location.”

She said a team of health professionals, consisting of a psychiatrist, nurses, counsellors and support staff manage more than 300 persons, who are listed on its register.

There is no health without mental health, she explained.

She cited WHO’s definition of health, which states, that health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of a disease or infirmity.

“A healthy mind can only be maintained if persons are aware of the importance of their mental status, and do their best to maintain it just as they would their physical health,” Mrs. Brandy-Williams said. “I spoke earlier of the impact of illicit substances on the mental health of our adolescents, as well as the issues of puberty and relationships on our adolescent population.

“The Mental Health Unit is cognizant of the importance of educating persons about mental health, and continues to promote good mental health in school settings as well as through monthly outreach sessions.

“Sessions on stress management amongst other topics are also part of our vibrant workplace wellness programme,” Mrs. Brandy-Williams said. “As we recognize the burden of disease here in Nevis, which reflects non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and certain cancers for example, we are also cognizant that receiving an NCD diagnosis, can very well lead to the onset of a mental disorder of depression or worsening of another mental disorder.

“We, at the Ministry of Health, therefore, continue to place attention on the holistic treatment of a patient and not just physical health conditions, but mental and spiritual health as well.

“Today, on World Mental Health Day, I challenge you to raise your individual awareness about mental health recognizing that any one of us can be affected.”

“It only takes a major life stressor, for example, for anyone of us or our family members to be affected,” she said. “Let us be more accepting of those with mental health challenges including our young people who continue to face many challenges in their daily lives.”