Mental Health Awareness Week Focuses on Chronic Disease and Mental Illness

The Minister of Health, the Hon. Walter Roban JP MP today joined with Bermuda Hospitals Board’s Mid-Atlantic Wellness Institute (MWI) to launch Mental Health Awareness Week. The theme for the week is Chronic Disease and Mental Illness: The Need for Continued and Integrated Care.

The theme speaks to the link between diseases such as cancer, diabetes and cardiac disease and depression, a potentially disabling mental illness that seriously impacts overall health. Research shows that depression carries an increased risk for physical illness, while conversely a number of chronic illnesses carry an increased risk for depression.

As MWI refocuses its service inline the Recovery Model, launched as part of the Mental Health Plan in June 2010, the focus on understanding the whole person in empowering them and helping them recover from mental illness is referenced in this year’s theme. Additionally, bringing mental health services closer to the community is shown to be a cost-effective and convenient way of providing services and reducing stigma and discrimination.

Minister Roban comments: “I am very proud to officially launch Mental Health Awareness Week 2010. As a community we need to better understand the relationship between chronic illness and mental health. The new Mental Health Plan certainly recognizes that to help a service user recover, we need to consider the whole individual. International figures suggest that depression is present in 1 of 5 outpatients with coronary heart disease and in 1 of 3 outpatients with congestive heart failure, and that the odds of developing depression and the rate of depression are doubled for people who have diabetes. Depression increases the risk of mortality in people with diabetes by 30 percent. More and more we are recognising that multiple links between our mental and physical wellbeing and our task will be to ensure links are there with mental health services, wherever an individual needs them.”

Chief Operating Officer, Patrice Dill comments: “We have many deliverables underway as part of the Mental Health Plan and ensuring improved communication and education to the healthcare and Bermuda community will help, along with the planned increase in community-based mental health services that is identified in the Plan. There is a terrible stigma about people with mental illnesses. Any one of us can suffer from a mental illness, and if we are diagnosed with a chronic illness the chances of us suffering from depression increases. However, treatments are available and effective and at MWI our goal is to make sure we are reaching out to make our services readily available to all those who need them.”

Chief of Psychiatry, Dr Michael Radford comments: “Most mental health problems that are treated in the world are treated in primary care, by general practitioners. That is why we want to increase our partnership and work more closely with Bermuda’s GPs and this will especially help people who are seeing their doctor for chronic illnesses. Additionally, much mental illness in seniors is likely to be untreated. Part of Bermuda’s Mental Health Plan is a partnership with the newly returned Chief of Geriatrics, Dr David Harries, to set up an integrated ‘mood and memory’ service between KEMH and MWI as an extension to the present KEMH Day Hospital activity. Proactive social and medical care will be needed to avoid the present levels of social breakdown that lead to emergency demands for residential care, and inappropriate, prolonged and expensive placement in the hospitals.”

A full week of activities has been planned, including a public presentation on Wednesday 13 October in MWI’s First Floor Meeting Room at 5.30pm. The presentation will be with Alan Rowland, a service user from the UK, who moved on from his mental health experience to become an advocate, researcher and teacher of the power of recovery.

Also for the public, on Saturday 16 October, there will be a Story Telling and Activity Hour at the Bermuda Youth Library for children between 4 and 7 years old from 10.30am to 11.30am.

Other activities are aimed at service users and healthcare professionals and include a concert, education for community and acute care physicians at King Edward VII Memorial Hospital, specific education for mental healthcare professionals and a ‘Mini Amazing Race’ aimed at mental health partners to improve knowledge and understanding of services at MWI.

Radio advertisments around the theme ‘Voices of Recovery’ will be running from today into November and will use the real stories of service users to talk about the services available in Bermuda. An enhanced mental health section of the BHB website has also been launched.

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