Belize joined the rest of the world today in celebrating Mental Health Day. While there were different events happening around the country to commemorate the event, Love News decided to start off with vital information regarding mental health in Belize. Reporter Courtney Menzies reports.
Mental health is often considered a taboo topic in Belizean society. As such the issue goes undiscussed and persons who are suffering go undiagnosed. Today as we celebrate World Mental Health Day we need to understand the importance of starting this conversation. To begin the Nursing Administrator for Mental Health at the Ministry of Education Eleanor Bennett, gave us some statistics.
Eleanor Bennett, Nursing Administrator for Mental Health, Ministry of Health: “About 10% of the population receives mental heathcare from us, the most common condition that people seek help for is something we call anxiety disorders and there are several types of anxiety disorders and then after anxiety disorders we have depression and then schizophrenia which is a mental disorder that needs a lot of management and then we do get people who attempt suicide. So for the year 2018 we had I think 320 suicide attempts registered in our information system.”
Bennett noted that these statistics are only those who have decided to start receiving treatment and may not reflect the amount of persons in the country who are undiagnosed. For those who are questioning whether they should seek professional help nurse Bennet told us some signs that anyone can look out for.
Eleanor Bennett, Nursing Administrator for Mental Health, Ministry of Health: It differs for different disorders and I just want to say it’s a community effort so we have to look out for each other pretty much that is how we get people in for treatment. If you see one of your friends or your relatives having a drastic change in behavior, maybe they used to enjoy certain things and then they stop doing it or let’s say they start to drink alcohol frequently or more than they used to, if you see them withdrawing from other people and not seeing them go places, in adolescents we look for failing grades, we look for erratic emotions those things signal a problem- it might not mean that the person has a diagnosis but it means that there is a problem and I think we have to catch problems early if we want to prevent serious mental health issues from developing. So I think in a nutshell it’s just to look out for each other. We have mental health clinics all over the country, the treatment is free of cost, you don’t need an appointment you can walk in if it’s an emergency, people can always show up to their district hospital emergency room and receive emergency care.”
So what will the future of mental health in Belize look like ? After the death of Nestor Vasquez at the hands of another mentally ill person his family issued a statement asking for more assistance in the form of acute units and medium term facilities. Nurse Bennet stated that the ministry wants the same thing.
Eleanor Bennett, Nursing Administrator for Mental Health, Ministry of Health: ” We do have an acute unit and it’s Belmopan and it’s one that is functioning very well and it is the vision of the Ministry of Health to have acute units at all government hospitals all over the country and at Karl Heusner. Karl Heusner serves one of the largest populations in the country and one of the districts that has quite a bit of people who require this level of care. So definitely that is a gap that the Ministry of Health recognizes that we need to fix.”
We will have more information on the different events occurring around the country later in our newscast.