The Rathdune Unit at the Mt. Gay Psychiatric Hospital is facing a significant increase in admissions for individuals experiencing acute mental health episodes.
According to Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health responsible for the Mt. Gay Psychiatric Hospital, Naomi Jeremiah, there has been a “17.5%” rise in new admissions at the Rathdune Unit.
She revealed during a health update press briefing in St. George’s on Wednesday that 742 individuals came in contact with the unit, of which there were a total of 370 admissions at Mt. Gay Mental Hospital, representing a 7% increase.
“We noticed as usual, males outnumbered females but while there was (a) 7.6% increase in males there was an 8.3% increase in female admissions, and 17.5% in new admissions,” said PS Jeremiah.
She also highlighted the challenge of overcrowding at the unit and emphasised the importance of family involvement.
She said the unit which has in recent years been plagued with rodent infestation and utility issues is earmarked for refurbishment under the “OECS Regional Project.”
Acute mental illness is characterised by significant and distressing symptoms requiring immediate treatment.
The Rathdune acute psychiatric unit is a facility where persons with mental disorders are admitted for treatment and rehabilitation to return to society and continue with their normal life.
PS Jeremiah urged families to participate actively and support their loved ones during their treatment.
She said plans are underway for the refurbishment of the unit under the OECS Regional project in order to address the issue of overcrowding.
“We know that certain families would leave their family members there, and leave it up to the State to carry on the burden of caring, but we’d like to appeal to the various families that you need to take a little time and visit your relatives at the institution,” she remarked.
Her call comes amidst efforts by the Ministry of Health to review the Mental Health Act to provide a framework and standards for the protection or promotion of the rights of the people with mental conditions, protection for service providers, and guidelines for service delivery.
Work is ongoing to develop a national mental health policy, with technical support from the Pan-American Health Organisation (PAHO).
The policy, which aims to strengthen mental health services at all levels with critical attention given to the community to provide comprehensive mental health and social care that meets the population’s needs, will see the development of a national suicide prevention strategy.
National Director of Mental Health Services, Josh Hector, emphasised the significance of upcoming consultations on mental health legislation.
He stressed the need for established procedures and standards to strengthen and improve the nation’s mental health services.
“While a mental health policy is useful, the legislation will intervene in providing established procedures and standards that must be followed. Come next year consultations will be held on the national scale,” said Hector, who is “looking forward to the participation of the citizens as we strengthen, and improve the mental health machinery of our nation.”
The Director of Mental Health Services and Substance Issues portfolio is the most recently established position within the Ministry of Health with responsibility for the technical operational oversight of the directorate of mental health and serves as the national focal person for all mental health and substance use issues.
Also among his duties is the development and coordination of mental health programmes, and activities in accordance with policies, and procedures established by the Ministry of Health to improve the quality of service delivery, accessibility, and community care.
The Director is also responsible for the development of good practice guidelines on effective interventions in primary, secondary tertiary, and inter-agency collaborations.