Under the theme, ‘Depression, Let’s Talk,’ Antigua and Barbuda’s Health and the Environment Ministry celebrated World Health Day 2017 on Friday, April 7th with a series of activities at its headquarters on Lower High Street and Long Streets.
The health fair featured an opening ceremony with a number of high-level dignitaries, community activists and health technicians.
In his World Health Day address, Health and Environment Minister, Molwyn Joseph said plans are in the pipeline to review the country’s capabilities to handle and care for the mental needs of the population.
“We are going to have to look at how we institutionalize the response to those who are depressed and we are going to have to review our institutional arrangements to determine whether or not we have the capacity in place to provide the help for those who step forward and to encourage those who are too ashamed or afraid of being stigmatized to come forward,” declared Joseph.
He also urged his ministry technicians to join the fight against depression by making the workplace a more comfortable and happier place to perform the country’s duties.
“One of the highest rates of depression can be found in the workplace and quite often for some people the workplace is a very unhappy place and a place where there is a lot of stress. And it’s for this reason why I mention the leaders of the Ministry because I want you to understand that every department, every statutory body’s leadership must take on the responsibility of ensuring that the workplace becomes a happy place,” said Joseph.
The Minister also paid particular attention to the nation’s youths, saying that more needs to be done in the school system to combat stress and anxiety among the children.
“Young people should not be having stress, School children should not be having stress; those are the days when you are supposed to be happy, running around enjoying your youthful life but we are finding out in the schools that young people are stressed out. This is a pandemic, the whole issue of depression is a pandemic and we must find solutions,” the Health and Environment Minister disclosed.
Acting Chief Medical Officer, Dr James Knight and medical practitioner and PAHO Mental Health Focal Point, Dr Teri-Ann Joseph also made brief remarks.
Non-Communicable Disease Coordinator and Wellness Committee Chairperson, Nurse Valarie Williams was also present at the opening ceremony and during her brief remarks spoke of some of the dangers a country can face if it fails to act decisively where mental health is concerned.
“Failure to act is costly, low levels of recognition and access to care for depression and other common mental health disorder result in economic loss. There are losses incurred by household, employees and government. Households lose out financially when persons are ill and cannot work, employers lose out when employees become less productive and are unable to work while government have to pay higher health expenditures noted Nurse Williams.
Following the ceremony, the gathering was showered with lectures on suicide, depression, food and exercise and a number of cultural performances which included dances and theatrical presentations. A number of mind games such as warri and draughts were also played.
The event climaxed with a grand socarobics session with health enthusiast Justin Joseph.