“You mad, she crazy, he tripping.”
According to American Mental Health Specialist, Melinda Blaise, “these are the kinds of local terms that we often hear people saying when folks are talking about mental illness,” which she noted comes in “more than 200 classified forms including depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders, often leading to changes in mood, personality, personal habits and often leads to social withdrawal.”
In addressing a forum last December at Norton Hall on Church Street, marking the 70th International Human Rights Day celebrations, which is recognised annually on December 10th, Blaise, an American Peace Corp, called for Grenadians to “do their part in becoming more tolerant in an effort to destigmatise mental illness” and make it easier to deal with.
“The stigma of mental illness makes it difficult for us to treat it and take it seriously,” said Blaise, pointing out that “Grenadians have seen example after example of individuals who display mental illness symptoms in the work place, schools, on the streets and often times, instead of reaching out, many in the public make fun of them, berate them and even post on social media, where we further stigmatise those same individuals.”
She noted that “mental illness or mental disorders, like any other illness, is not a choice (but) are due to chemical imbalances in the brain and initiates a variety of symptoms…causing mild to severe disturbances in thought and behaviour making it difficult to cope with life’s daily demands and routines.”
She expressed the view that “here in (the) Grenadian society, as well as a number of societies, we like to think that mental illness is something that someone has chosen or some spirit has entered them or something else is going on… but like diabetes, cancer, hypertension, mental illness is a biological response in the body”.
According to the mental health specialist, in light of the stigmatisation faced by someone suffering from mental illness, the World Mental Health Organisation (WHO) in 2018 commemorated World Mental Health Day, which is recognised on October 10th each year, by focusing their campaign on some of the most vulnerable when it comes to the topic of mental illness, the youth.
Blaise referenced the WHO report, which indicated that “half of all mental illnesses begin by the age of 14 but most of the cases go undetected and untreated.”
Additionally, she said, “WHO insists that much can be done to help build mental resilience from an early age (and) to help prevent mental distress and illness among adolescents and young adults, to (help them) manage and recover from mental illness.”
“(WHO) says, prevention begins with being aware and understanding the early warning signs and symptoms of mental illness,” Blaise said, pointing to further WHO research, which “implies that investment by governments and the involvement of the social health education sectors and comprehensive integrated evidence-based programme for the mental health of young people is essential.
She also said that WHO went on to “access that these investments should be linked to programmes to raise awareness on ways to look after the mentally ill and to help peers, parents and teachers to know how to support friends, children and students”.
“So as we can see the issue of mental illness is a challenging one for Grenada as in many other countries,” she said, however, noted that a “lack of coordinated resources,” is what makes the issue even more relevant for us in country”.
“Let us take a first stand today by drawing the line in the sand when it comes to dealing with mental illness and all of those who are impacted which could be anyone of us.
“Let us all do our part by becoming more tolerant and destigmatising mental illness and its disorder. Showing tolerance of each other and caring for each other is what makes us human.
“Let us show respect and encourage the dignity of persons who when vulnerable cannot do so for themselves. Let us be united in the strengthening of this nation’s mental resilience from young to old…let us all pledge this today on this International Human Rights day.