Election 2020: mental health progress must continue

  • Public advocacy: Donald Scott, deputy chairman of the Bermuda Mental Health Foundation

    Public advocacy: Donald Scott, deputy chairman of the Bermuda Mental Health Foundation

More education is needed to help end the stigma of mental health and addiction, campaigners have said.

The Bermuda Mental Health Foundation added it would continue to work with whichever party was in power after the October 1 General Election and that it was pleased with changes made to the Mental Health Act last year.

A well-placed source said separately that substance-use disorder should be recognised in mental health law to make sure that the problem gets proper attention.

The source added he would like to see “substance-use disorder treatment being under the Ministry of Health, considering substance-use disorder is a brain illness”.

He said that a community effort was needed to “reduce the stigma around seeking help for substance use disorder”.

The source added: “Financial resources are needed to support safe, affordable, supportive housing and employment for those seeking long-term recovery.”

He said that funding was needed to train or hire qualified staff to help provide “much needed client-centred treatment and support” and added that there was a shortage of qualified male addiction counsellors on the island.

The source added: “Bermuda could also possibly benefit by an increase in residential treatment beds.”

The Progressive Labour Party said in its 2017 election platform that it would “work in collaboration with addiction professionals to design a continuum of care service that will increase access to services and improve long-term outcomes for people suffering with addiction”.

A Ministry of Legal Affairs spokeswoman said today: “The Department for National Drug Control’s treatment unit has the mandate to oversee all addiction treatment services on the island, both public and private, for all Bermudians in need of treatment.

“A continuum of care for substance abuse treatment currently includes early intervention, outpatient treatment, intensive outpatient/partial hospitalisation and residential/inpatient treatment.

“The ‘continuum of care’ for treatment of substance abuse has longstanding collaborations with the Ministry of Health, Child and Family Services, Mid-Atlantic Wellness Institute, Court Services, corrections, employee assistance programmes, and the private sector.

“The Ministry of Legal Affairs and the DNDC are continuously monitoring and reviewing the effectiveness of all programmes and treatment services based on relevant data and current research.

“The ministry will continue working with service agencies to provide funding for programmes and streamline the process for clients to access services.”

The PLP also pledged in 2017 that a PLP government would “conduct a comprehensive review of mental health services in Bermuda and make progressive reforms to adequately address mental health challenges in our community”.

A Ministry of Health spokeswoman said this month: “The ministry partnered with Public Health England, the Pan American Health Organisation and the Bermuda Hospitals Board to complete a review of our mental health services.

“This was completed in November 2019; however, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, resources have had to be focused on other matters subsequently.

“Nevertheless, even before this review, the Government made important amendments to the Mental Health Act to address some longstanding issues.”

She added: “The amendments were made to improve treatment options and patient safeguards, and established community treatment orders, legislative requirements for consent to treatment and a framework within which mental capacity can be determined.

“These changes were begun by the previous government and were completed under this administration as we are committed to advancing improvements to mental health provision in Bermuda.”

Donald Scott, the deputy chairman of the BMHF, said: “The Bermuda Mental Health Foundation has and will continue to work with the government of the day to enhance the wellbeing of mentally ill persons in our community.

“The foundation is always encouraged when government policymakers and officials provide legislative support for the mentally ill. However, the foundation firmly believes that it is our responsibility as a community to ensure that we protect those who suffer from any form of mental illness.”

Mr Scott added: “The foundation’s core mandate is to acquire and oversee the operation of communal residential homes for persons recovering from episodes of mental illness. We also encourage educational activities that broaden public awareness of the nature of mental illness and erase the stigma so often attached to mental illness.”

He said: “The foundation is pleased with the changes made to the Mental Health Act in 2019 and was involved in the public consultation.”

Mr Scott added: “We understand that the changes come into effect on October 31, together with a code of practice that provides guidance to professionals who provide treatment and care for persons suffering from mental illness.

“We look forward to continuing the work that needs to be done and invite those interested to get involved.”

UPDATE: This story has been updated to include a response from the Ministry of Legal Affairs, received today.

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Published Sep 24, 2020 at 8:00 am (Updated Sep 24, 2020 at 11:20 am)

Election 2020: mental health progress must continue

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