Breaking the silence on a regional issue

EJA and Sweet Water Foundation launch new mental health programmes in the OECS and Barbados

Someone you know could be silently suffering from mental illness, but due to fear of stigmatisation, he or she does not access mental health services.

The Equality and Justice Alliance in conjunction with the Sweetwater Foundation based in Grenada will be rolling out programmes in the OECS countries and Barbados that will support every citizen, especially our women, girls and LGBT+ persons having the right to mental health services that could impact their overall wellbeing. Every citizen, regardless of age, gender, nationality, religion or sexual orientation deserves the right to have access to mental health services.

In some of our jurisdictions, persons with poor mental health are more susceptible to poverty and personal vulnerability; there are also issues of violence against vulnerable persons with mental health concerns and in some cases, no access for youth under 18.

Some of the programmes rolled out will include, in Antigua – a public awareness campaign and training for persons working in mental health. In Barbados, a video series entitled Mental Health Matters. In St Lucia, a workshop for mental health providers. In Dominica, a poster competition for youth on “breaking mental health barriers” and a panel discussion on “dismantling the stigma”

Women, girls and members of the LGBT+ community are disproportionately affected when it comes to mental health services. Owing to stigma and discrimination which are prevalent, many are fearful of the repercussions of going for services. This, coupled with outdated laws, limited budgets for services and cultural factors, makes it a challenge.

One intended outcome of these outreach programmes is amended legislation to ensure so that inclusive access to mental health services for all citizens, including women, girls, LGBT+ and other vulnerable people. Other outcomes include increased knowledge for the public through educational and sensitising campaigns to minimise negative stereotypes and highlight the importance of mental health as a key component for holistic health and wellbeing. Additionally, we aim to provide focused, consistent and systematic training for health care professionals using a culturally sensitive and human rights approach.

The Equality and Justice Alliance (EJA) is dedicated to creating better laws for better lives. The organisation partners with community-based groups and civil society agencies to create and improve services by providing capacity building and financial support. For this project, the Sweet Water Foundation will be leading the charge; this foundation was established in 2008 with offices in Grenada and Canada and focuses on help for children, the LGBT+ population and other vulnerable communities. They conduct research, develop policies and practice recommendations, provide training and psychological treatment programmes.

If you or someone you know from a vulnerable population is suffering from the effects of poor mental health, please contact your nearest hospital or mental health clinic.

For more information on this and other programmes like it, contact:

Hazel Da Breo, PhD
Sweet Water Foundation
Wavecrest, Grand Anse
St George, Grenada

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