By Theresa Goodwin
A youth advocate is of the firm view that it is time for the government to “seriously” consider integrating mental health support into the general health care system.
Youth parliamentarian and mental health advocate Chaniel Imhoff said this kind of integration is critical at this time, especially in light of the Covid-19 virus and the impact it has taken on the mental health of frontline workers, police officers and others who may be stuck at home without a job.
“The current referral pathway needs restructuring to make it easy for people to access mental health support. If you have a mental health issue, the last thing you need is to be dealing with a lot of red tape and government bureaucracy which makes the situation worst,” Imhoff said.
“The long periods of isolation and uncertainty of the Covid-19 pandemic have amplified the need for us to invest more in mental health. Our most vulnerable populations such as women, children, and persons from low-income households are at risk of increased stress, anxiety, and depression and we must take responsibility and invest where necessary to ensure their health and safety,” she added.
The youth parliamentarian also pointed out that she listened intently to the 2021 budget presentation that was delivered by Prime Minister Gaston Browne on January 28, and she is yet to hear of the plans and programmes to address mental health, which is just as critical as physical health.
“The prime minister talks about non-communicable diseases, cancer, and heart disease being the top three leading causes of death in Antigua and Barbuda and the need to invest in a renal center, a cardiac center, and a medical diagnostic center. It was noted that having a renal center with excess capacity, could provide a niche in our tourism product to cater to tourists with kidney failure. While I agree that these centers have their place in our health system, we must not forget the crucial role our lone Psychiatric Hospital plays,” she said.
Imhoff also spoke of the need for more investments into existing facilities like the Clarevue Psychiatric Hospital, which Imhoff pointed out is in the process of raising in excess of EC$15,000 to construct an isolation room.
“This must be addressed. While we are investing in new centers, I implore the government to remember Clarevue and its over 100 patients who require care,” she said.