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 Address by Hon. Keith Mondesir Minister for Health to commemorate World Mental Health Day October 10, 2008

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Address by


Honourable Keith Mondesir


Minister for Health


to commemorate


World Mental Health Day


October 10, 2008


It is a great honour for me to address you today to commemorate this important day – World Mental Day.


Our constitution requires that we pay special attention to those groups that are most vulnerable and cannot fully represent themselves as they are voiceless or cannot benefit from these rights at their own volition and mental health care users are among these.


The best test of a civilized society is in the way it treats its less fortunate, and deprived citizens and how it reacts to such marginalization.


The World Health Organization estimates that mental disorders comprise 12% of the global burden of diseases and this is predicted to be increasing. Approximately 450 million or one out of every four persons will experience a mental health problem during their lifetime.


These are revealing statistics. There are many factors in our environment today that may be contributing to the increase prevalence of the illness. These include difficult socio-economic conditions, increasing levels of substance abuse and exposure to violence and trauma. Mental health and mental illness is part of every country, culture, age group and socio-economic status.


As a civilized society we obligated to bettering the lives of mental health users. And how do we achieve this goal? Advocacy and action are the keys to change. Advocacy is defined as “speaking out for one another” or “acting on behalf of others or yourself”.

The WHO believes advocacy can promote the human rights of persons with mental disorders and to reduce stigma and discrimination. It consists of actions aimed at changing the major structural and attitudinal barriers to achieving positive mental health outcomes in our population.


As a ministry what is our vision of change?


  • We believe that there must be a movement away from the dominance of the medical concept of mental health with an integrated model driving policy.

  • There should be greater importance placed on public mental health and recognize mental health as a whole-population issue.

  • For those in need of support to cope with a mental health problem, services should be united in supporting the recovery of a good quality of life and the achievement of goals and ambitions.

  • And power relations need to shift in order to give real self-determination over the process and direction of recovery to individuals their careers and families.



A balance of community-based and hospital-based services is the most effective form of comprehensive mental care. This government has embraced this approach and this is exemplified by our strategic direction for the new mental health facility. Our new focus attempts to restore the balance between institutionalized care and community care.


 But in order for us the achieve positive results for our comprehensive non-institutional care programme we need the support of the entire community – Non Governmental Organizations, consumer and family associations and informal resources of family, friends and other social networks.


As a ministry we will redouble our efforts to give people a better understanding of mental illness. We also need to make the public aware that mental illness can be treated. Effective interventions are available and persons need to seek help from their nearest healthcare provider.


Let me also appeal to families of health care users and the community at large to support and respect mental health care users and provide them with an environment that is conducive for them to regain their self-esteem and self worth.


Finally I would like to express my appreciation to health professionals especially those who work at the Golden Hope Hospital who interact and care for persons with mental illnesses.


As we commemorate World Mental Health Day let us be mindful that responsibility does not only lie with the leaders of our countries or those who have been elected or appointed to do a particular job. It lies with each of us individually.


I thank you.


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