Suicide rate high among Indo-Trinidadians

Mental health clinic opens in central

Ashvini Nath, manager, mental health services in the Ministry of Health, highlights the increase in mental disorders at the opening of the Stress Relief Clinic in Chaguanas yesterday. Photo by Vashti Singh

(Trinidad Newsday) Mental disorders affects people from adolescence to adulthood, mental health manager at the Ministry of Health, Ashvini Nath said yesterday.

“We have 50 per cent of mental disorders developing by the age of 14, and 75 per cent by the age of 24,” she said at the opening of the new Stress Clinic at the Chaguanas Health Centre. The centre was opened by the North Central Regional Health Authority (NCRHA) at the Chaguanas Main Road.

Mental disorders, she said, can be deadly as suicide was the second leading cause of deaths among young people 15 to 29, in the world.

“There has been an increase in suicide among young girls and ethnicity wise in Indo-Trinis, we see a higher suicide rate,” Nath said.

She went on to say that in 2018, the World Health Organization noted that depression was the leading cause of ill health and disability. Mental disorders tend to be more severe and last longer in those who are diagnosed with depression.

Nath outlined that many countries were rapidly changing because of massive migrations of people, widening social equalities, and technological advancements.

“Some of these lifestyle changes together with social and economic inequalities have increased individual and societal stress making us more vulnerable to mental health problems and mental disorders,” Nath said. Stress when left unmanaged, she stated, can impact on physical health. “There is that well established relationship where both physical and mental illnesses may have shared underlying biological behavioural mechanisms.” Mental disorders impact and affected physical conditions such as cancer, diabetes, HIV/Aids and cardiovascular diseases.

Nath commended the NCRHA for taking the initiative for opening the clinic and funding it as well. The authority has identified the emerging problems with mental health, while monitoring the trends in suicide attempts at the Chaguanas District Health Facility.

Nath told the heads at Chaguanas Health Centre that initiatives which are data driven have increased access to health care for many persons to use and have yielded significant successes with one hundred per cent progress. That, she said, should not just be celebrated but replicated in other regions of the country. “We know this stress is common as we all experience this from time to time. We know the tension, headaches, stomach problems and the feeling of worrying,” Nath said. Reluctance to seek mental care, she said, results in a notable increase in mental disorders. This was why it was important to promote the clinic.

The ministry has recognised the need to treat with mental health as a priority and has moved to increased resources through a director of Mental Health Services.

Nath noted that the current model of mental health care did not adequately meet the needs of the population as the ministry seeks to restructure and decentralise care from the St Ann’s Psychiatric Hospital. The National Mental Health policy which is to undergo its final stakeholder consultation this month, before submission to Cabinet, will provide the strategic framework to enhance the general well-being of the general population.

It will provide help for those who are at risk of developing mental disorders; focus on prevention of mental disorders and the promotion of good mental health; encourage the use of information and research to drive policy developments. It will also form important legislative changes to support the decentralisation process and improve the mental health crisis response.

Relevant to this initiative is the National Suicide Prevention Strategy which is under the development at the Ministry of Health. It is a comprehensive evidence based plan to reduce the prevalence of self-harm and suicide. Stigma continues to be a major challenge to treatments and care.

Clinical psychologist Patricia Lewah-Cooper said parents should look for symptoms in their children such as depression and anxiety and have them join the clinic.

On March 26, the ministry will join with the NCRHA to launch the first epilepsy syndrome seminar.


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