Mental Health Regional Advisor visits St. Maarten

St. Maarten is in the process of developing a National vision on Mental Health including but not limited to psychiatric and addiction care. With the current country status since 2010, it is important for the Ministry of Health of Sint Maarten, as leader of the Health Sector, to develop a (long term) vision on Mental Health in the broadest sense, including areas such as care and treatment policies, capacity and infrastructure, legislation and management and control. It is therefore imperative to engage all stakeholders in a dialogue on this subject and to have an understanding of the current status of the situation on Sint Maarten. 

As a first step, the first Dutch Caribbean mental health workshop, for the implementation of the World Health Organization-Assessment Instrument for Mental health Systems(WHO-AIMS) and the introduction of mental health GAP (mhGAP) action program was recently held here on St. Maarten. This was organized by Collective Prevention Services in collaboration with PAHO Venezuela and facilitated by Devora Kestel, Mental Health Regional Advisor for PAHO/WHO.

The WHO-AIMS tool was developed by the WHO as an assessment instrument, and touches on all areas of mental health services and provides recommendations on how to improve on those services.

During the opening ceremony, Minister of Public Health Social Development & Labor, Cornelius De Weever mentioned that regardless of one’s mental condition we should always strive to put people first. "although we have limited human and financial resources we should continue to put people first and tailor make things for our reality."

The workshop was attended by representatives from Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao, Saba and St. Eustatius, as well as representatives from governmental and non-governmental organizations on St. Maarten. The main topic discussed was the WHO AIMS. The Assessment Instrument for Mental Health Systems, developed by WHO, was introduced in a context of a larger presentation of mental health as a public health issue, emphasizing current trends and tendencies, at a global, regional and Caribbean level. The recommendations of PAHO and WHO were also presented at this time.

Additionally in the evening a session was organized for the general practitioners from primary health care where they were introduced basically to a general perspective on mental health and its impact in the population as well as a brief introduction of the program mhGAP Intervention Guide, developed by WHO to capacitate non-specialized health professionals to identify and mange persons with most common mental disorders, behavioral disorders, dementia, alcohol, drug abuse, suicide and other significant emotional or medically unexplained complaints.

"I would like to thank all the participants and the organizers for participating in and contributing to all events leading to the development of the vision and policy plan of mental health care on St. Maarten," said Minister De Weever.

The conclusions of the meeting came to the following decisions. The importance of sensitizing the community; a new sub regional meeting to present results from WHO AIMS should take place during the first trimester next year; leadership of the process should stay at MOH, in collaboration with other key stakeholders, and the identified team who will revise the material should be multi-sectorial.