− recognises mental illness is a real issue

The Ministry of Public Health’s Mental Health Unit has taken its sensitisation and awareness efforts to the religious community, this time partnering with the leadership of the First Assembly of God (Wortmanville) Church.

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A three-day seminar, which opened on Monday, is being hosted under the theme “Let’s Talk Mental Health.”

A Health Education Officer engages a section of the gathering.

Addressing the importance of having his members engaged in such a discussion, Bishop Dr. Murtland Massiah said it was a timely one for the religious community since there was a need for intensified awareness.

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He recalled the case of someone he knew who suffered from a mental illness and how life-changing it could be. “That isolated case that I saw once in 30 years, I am now seeing 30 times in one year,” Dr. Massiah declared, adding that efforts such as the seminar and other awareness activities could contribute significantly to removing the stigma attached to mental illnesses locally.

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“Growing up, I heard about ‘madness’, and in this country, we treat mental health with a kind of detachment, without compassion and it’s only when or if it happens to someone close to you, that is when you begin to investigate,” Dr. Massiah said.

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The seminar will focus on the various mental illnesses, and their effects and participants will be educated on how they can identify those illnesses and refer individuals for professional help.

The mental health areas to be tackled include depression, psychosis, grief, self-harm/suicide, epilepsy, dementia, substance abuse, child and adolescent mental and behavioural disorders, and managing stress and practising self-care for better mental health.

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The seminar was organised by the church’s Marriage and Family Life Department, with the facilitators being the health ministry’s Health Education Officers Tashia James and Evelyn Ganesh. Licensed independent social worker, Marcia Walker from Ohio, USA is contributing her technical knowledge to the discussions.

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