Press Release 150/2011
(18 April 2011)



(CARICOM Secretariat, Turkeyen, Greater Georgetown, Guyana) Health ministers at the 21st Meeting of the Council for Human and Social Development which ended on Saturday in Georgetown, Guyana have agreed that mental health would be a high priority on the Region’s health agenda.

The decision came in the wake of calls on Friday morning at the opening ceremony by Guyana’s Minister of Health, Dr the Hon. Leslie Ramsammy for concerted efforts to tackle mental health in a similar manner as other risk factors to Chronic Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs)

Minister Ramsammy who spoke passionately about the matter reminded the meeting of health ministers, chief medical officers and other stakeholders in health that neuro- psychiatric illnesses represented a particularly disabling problem within the Region.

“No one can deny that neuro-psychiatric illnesses represent a major burden of disease area, but our collective response has been low profiled and inadequate,” he lamented.

The Report of the Caribbean Commission on Health and Development in 2005 which emanated from the Nassau Declaration 2001 – the Health of the Region is the Wealth of the Region - did address the issue of mental health; and CARICOM Heads of Government had subsequently mandated the development of a regional plan for mental health. Unfortunately, it has been difficult to obtain reliable data on the epidemiology of mental illness in the Caribbean. However when isolated studies were done for individual populations the prevalence rates of the major mental illnesses were not very different from those reported regionally. Analysis of direct and indirect costs of the two major mental illnesses – depression and schizophrenia – in one Member State for example revealed the astonishing figure of $J 3.8 billion for one year.

It was against this background that the COHSOD viewed mental health as one of the primary contributing risk factors to Chronic Non-Communicable Diseases and resolved that this matter – whether or not it was placed on the global agenda - would definitely be on the health agenda of CARICOM countries.

Minister Ramsammy who led the closing Press Conference of the COHSOD on Saturday announced that mental health would be included in the priority concerns of the Region going to the United Nations High Level Meeting on Chronic Disease Prevention in New York in September.

He was of the opinion that mental health was not getting the attention it deserved and avowed that CARICOM would again take the lead in launching an offensive against this health problem, thus ensuring that it was not only “talked about,” but would receive the attention it should be given in the Caribbean.


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