Sr. Minister of Health, Honourable Eugene Hamilton preparing for his presentation

Press Release

Basseterre, St. Kitts, December 05, 2016 (SKNIS): Minister of Health, Honourable Eugene Hamilton, stated unequivocally that maintaining one’s mental health is key to the overall preservation of well-being at the opening of the Mental Health Day Treatment Centre at La Guerite, this morning (December 05.)

“I now declare what you already know, that there is no health without good mental health.”  Minister Hamilton said.  “This Mental Health Day Treatment Centre is just as important as the MRI or the dialysis and other treatment that we need in health, indeed more so because it has a prevention mechanism, an early intervention mechanism.  Our country needs a well-resourced, well managed mental health programme spanning both islands.”

 Sr. Minister of Health, Honourable Eugene Hamilton preparing for his presentation
Sr. Minister of Health, Honourable Eugene Hamilton preparing for his presentation

Minister Hamiliton highlighted the fact that the new centre would enable primary healthcare resources to be dispersed more effectively.

“This centre potentially minimizes the need for hospital inpatient emergency services as well as a crowded psychiatric ward,” he said.  “This new facility therefore complements the overall strategic framework of delivering primary health care for all.”

The Minister of Health took the opportunity to thank former Consultant Psychiatrist of the Joseph N. France (JNF) General Hospital, Dr. Sharon Halliday, and the staff who began the process that resulted in the start of construction of the Mental Health Day Treatment Centre.  The current staff was also commended, as well as Permanent Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister, Osbert DeSuza, who at the time was the Manager of the Basic Needs Trust Fund (BNTF), the institution that had secured and provided the initial funding to construct the facility.

Minister Hamilton quoted statistics from Ikram Patel, who published an article in 2007 in the reputable British Medical Bulliten produced by the Oxford University Press, stating that mental disorders accounted for some 11 percent of the total burden of disease in lower and middle income countries.

Closer to home, it was identified that the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) also had some interesting figures pertaining to mental health.

“I discovered that some two years earlier (2005), PAHO recommended that provisions should be made in national health budgets for up to 10 percent of the population with mental, behavioural and degenerative disorders,” Minister Hamilton said.  “In our population that is about 5,000 people.  The fact that about 1,200 persons are known to have registered at our mental health institution should not give us comfort because we all know that many more are unregistered.  They are either being attended to by private practitioners or are self-medicating with alcohol, marijuana and other drugs.”

He further noted from figures provided by PAHO revealed that five percent of persons had depression, which is the most common form of mental disorders, and that 6 out of 10 of those persons went untreated.  PAHO in a 2013 publication was further noted to have stated that neurological and mental disorders caused one quarter of the burden of disease in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Minister Hamilton further noted that no individual was immune to mental illness.

“We are all exposed to everyday risks and pressures, pressures happening because climate is changing, pressures because we can get damaged by earthquakes and hurricanes, pressures because of job insecurity, economic instability, catastrophic illness in the family, accidents, we are all exposed, and our day may come,” he said.

The Mental Health Day Treatment Centre will be operated by trained professionals.

“The programme for mental health therefore, while welcoming this wonderful edifice to service delivery needs a cadre of mental health professionals to be in constant dialogue so that ideas could be generated to close the 60 percent gap identified by PAHO, so that we can arrest the trickling down of disorders in more and more families,” Minister Hamilton   The trickling down that manifests itself in social chaos.”

Minister Hamilton said that the Ministry of Health is capable of making the transformation to deliver the best quality services.