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The Case For Increased Awareness

Updated: Oct 17, 2018

"Island Hope Int'l is a 501c3 organization that seeks to promote health and wellness in a holistic manner to the disadvantaged and at risk individuals of West Indian heritage. IHI will accomplish this by promoting and providing various services such as health fairs, missionary work, service projects, outreach programs, and mentoring. We hope our efforts will empower individuals who are willing and able, to take control of their health and in return give back to their communities in which they reside."The above is the mission statement of Island Hope International (IHI). IHI purposely employed the term holistic in its mission statement to denote the importance of wellness in all areas of human functioning. One of the most neglected element as it relates to health and wellness is mental health. It is not often perceived as an integral element of wellness. Several factors are responsible for this omission namely; public policy, stigma and cultural norms, but I hope to address these factors in greater detail in my upcoming postings. Stay tuned!So, how do we define mental health? The World Health Organization (WHO) defines it as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. A state in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.” Consistently maintaining this state is quite challenging and that’s why many experts argue that mental health operates on a continuum. The fact is that many factors can easily and quickly disrupt this equilibrium. Many of our friends in the Caribbean and the diaspora are often victims of violence, natural disasters, poverty, relational issues, and serious physical illness, some of the most common factors that often lead to developing mental issues, and not to mention exacerbating pre-existing ones. A good example is after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, research showed that persons who experienced the earthquake directly and indirectly, i.e. family living in America, had symptoms consistent with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).Due to the lack of resources, funding and other historically negative views on mental illness, comprehensive data is lacking on mental health statistics across the Caribbean. A review of the available literature on rates of mental health disorders in Latin American and Caribbean countries have estimated major depression at 9.8%, alcohol abuse at 11.3% and drug abuse and dependence at 2.1% (Gaviria & Rondon, 2010). The numbers are even more sobering for suicide rates. For example, Guyana has the highest suicide rate in the world, at 44.2 suicides per 100,000 people while the global average is 16 per 100,000. Trinidad and Tobago has the third largest rate of suicide in the Caribbean. It is important to highlight the rates of suicide in the Caribbean because, according to research, depression is one of the most important risk factors for suicide. We can therefore form some conclusions regarding the severity of depression and other mental illness despite the lack of comprehensive data across the Caribbean.IHI is one of the few not-for-profits that regards mental health as a priority in our outreach and community service. When we organize workshops, health fairs, and seminars on matters of physical wellness island-wide, prepare to stop by our mental health desk! Davonie Green, B.S., M.S.Director of Mental HealthIsland Hope

SourcesGaviria S. L, Rondon, M.B. Some considerations on mental health in Latin American and the Caribbean. International Review of Psychiatry. 2010; 22:363–9.Messiah et al. Mental health impact of the 2010 Haiti earthquake on the Miami Haitian population: A random-sample survey. Disaster Health. 2014 Jul-Dec; 2(3-4): 130–137. Published online 2015 Feb 18. doi:  10.1080/21665044.2015.1014216The Guardian: Guyana: Mental illness, witchcraft, and the highest suicide rate in the world; 7/3/2015

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