Breaking the silence on mental health in the Caribbean

Mental health concept in word tag cloud on white

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

The Equality and Justice Alliance (EJA) in conjunction with the Eastern Caribbean Alliance for Diversity and Equality (ECADE) and the Sweetwater Foundation based in Grenada, will be rolling out programs in the OECS countries and Barbados that will support every citizen, especially women, girls and LGBT+ people having the right to mental health services that could impact their overall well being.

Every citizen, regardless of age, gender, nationality, religion or sexual orientation deserves the right to have access to mental health services.

People with poor mental health are more susceptible to poverty and personal vulnerability. There are recorded issues of violence against vulnerable persons with mental health concerns and in some cases, there is no access for youth under 18 to comprehensive mental health services.

Some of the programs 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 Saint 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 accessing these services. This, coupled with outdated laws, limited budgets for services and cultural factors, makes it a challenge.

One intended outcome of these outreach programs is amended legislation to ensure inclusive and discrimination free 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 sensitizing campaigns to minimize 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 based approach.

The Sweet Water Foundation, is leading this project, which is an initiative of the Equality and Justice Alliance (EJA) in collaboration with Eastern Caribbean Alliance for Diversity and Equality (ECADE).

EJA is dedicated to creating better laws for better lives. The organization partners with community-based groups and civil society agencies to create and improve services by providing capacity building and financial support.

SWF was established in 2008 with offices in Grenada and Canada and focuses on help for children, LGBT+ and other vulnerable communities. It conducts research, develops policy and practice recommendations, provide training and psychological treatment programs.

The Eastern Caribbean Alliance for Diversity and Equality Inc. (ECADE) is a network of organisations working across the eastern Caribbean. Drawing on The Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states that: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights” and “All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law”.

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