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Mental Health Is Everyone’s Business

Belize, for the first time is partnering with the National Board of Certified Counsellors International to have training workshops on the issue of mental health via BTEC, the Business and Technology Education Centre.  In collaboration with the Belize Mental Health Association, a 2-day training workshop is currently taking place at the ITVET Training Room in Belize City.  Christine Smith who heads BTEC, spoke to Love News on the initiative taken and the collaboration made.

CHRISTINE S MITH:This training is not to develop a new cadre of professionals but it’s more to have persons on the ground who are able to alert others as to concerns that might be happening with someone and then refer that person to the proper authorities.”

Reporter: Is it open to just people who work in the mental health field or is it community based?

CHRISTINE SMITH:  “Its both, its community based because given our dynamics in Belize we know that we have a good amount of psychiatric nurses and we have some counselors but we don’t have as many persons working on  the ground as we would like so having persons on the community level as well as persons who might be working as part of HR in their companies to be able to identify risk factors when they see them and just be able to point people in the right direction.”

Reporter: How did this come about in terms of BTEC and Mental Health ?

CHRISTINE SMITH:  “Well BTEC over the years we have had an informal partnership with the University of North Carolina ENT, when they come to Belize to do their study tour they have participated in at least two of our trainings and it’s through that relationship that we found out about the mental health facilitator training.”

Facilitator for the training is Dr Sherilynn Smith-Augustine.  She is a Master Trainer for the Mental Health Facilitation Training via NBCC International.  According to Augustine, not only is it important to have persons become trained in recognizing mental health issues but it is also crucial for persons to become self-aware.

DR SHERILYNN SMITH-AUGUSTINE:“Empowering individuals at the grassroots level so that they are able to do an assessment for themselves to know when they are in crisis, when their stress level is at a point when they need to access more specialized services so at this level it’s really about educating even community members so that they become more informed because mental health without mental health there can be no physical health and often times we find that people are not as aware of what is going on with themselves from a mental perspective and it’s important that everybody even the layman on the street knows when he or she is in need of some sort of intervention. Initially one of the things that we strive for people to do is be able to know yourself; know how you function normally so that whenever there is a deviation you know that something is not quite right. If you’re somebody who normally sleeps eight hours a night and suddenly you can’t go to sleep or you are sleeping all day if you are somebody who comes into the workplace and you’re cheery and suddenly you are biting everybody else heads off those are indications and  that maybe something is not quite right and so we have to be able to take the initial assessment and so what we do with this training is to help people to understand who they are as individuals so that when they start to change you are the first person to recognize that their mood has changed. The mental health facilitation training is similar to CPR, we should train everybody in CPR so that if you are running a fever you know what to do. The same way if you are starting to get stressed out, your hair starts to fall out you know that you can’t continue that because you know that if you continue that you may escalate into a full blown mental health disorder and then of course you don’t want that because that impacts your social life, your economic life and all aspects of your life so we are really in mode of prevention.”

The training ended this evening.