ROADTOWN Tortola BVI, December 5th, 2011 – In its ongoing efforts to reform the delivery of the Virgin Islands’ mental health services to effectively address the needs of the population, the Ministry of Health and Social Development, in collaboration with the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) and the BVI Health Services Authority, hosted a two day capacity building training.
The workshop was held on November 24 and 25. Over 30 participants learned more about delivering “psychological first aid” in a disaster, during the workshop which focused on mental health and psycho social issues in disasters.
In delivering her opening remarks, Psychiatrist and Chief of Medical Staff of the BVI Health Services Authority, Dr. June Samuel expressed her delight with the response of the participants which indicated the high value that was placed on the role of mental health in a national disaster.
Dr. Samuel stated, “I am very happy that PAHO has decided to address this issue and bring some focus to it. My hope is that we all leave here keenly aware of the cross cutting importance of mental health in many situations and the need to properly plan for a response both nationally and individually”.
The workshop, which was held at the University of the West Indies Open Campus in Paraquita Bay, was designed to build capacity and to develop a plan of action to respond to the mental health needs of the population during a national disaster.
Topics covered during the workshop included the Delivery of Mental Health Services in the BVI; Disaster Risk Reduction and Response; Concepts and Definitions of Disaster and Health; and Mental Health in Emergency: Defining What is Normal and What Needs Careful Attention.
Primary facilitators for the workshop were PAHO Disaster Risk Reduction Specialist, Ms. Nicole Wynter, PAHO Regional Advisor on Mental Health, Ms. Dévora Kestel, Director of Mental Health Services in the BVI Health Services Authority, Dr. Virginia Rubaine and Deputy Director of the Department of Disaster Management, Mr. Zebalon McLean.
Participants were comprised of members of the Crisis Intervention Team, a volunteer group of Community Mental Health; first responders from the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force and the Fire and Rescue Services; officials of the BVI Health Services Authority, the Ministry of Health and Social Development, the Social Development Department and the Sandy Lane Centre.
World Mental Health Day was observed on October 10 and according to the World Health Organisation's (WHO) Mental Health Atlas 2011, average global spending on mental health is still less than US$3 per capita per year. In low income countries, expenditure can be as little as US$0.25 per person per year.
It is estimated that almost half of the world's population live in a country where, on average, there is one psychiatrist to serve 200,000 people.
In the Virgin Islands, the WHO Assessment Instrument for Mental Health system (WHO-AIMS) was used to collect information and structure the report on the state of the Territory’s mental health services in an effort to reform the services. As a result, a new Mental Health Ordinance is also currently being drafted.
The Ministry of Health and Social Development endeavours to provide leadership that promotes health, social well being and a safe environment.
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