Mental health help: MoH outlines national plan to support citizens

The Ministry of Health (MoH) has outlined a robust national plan to treat with mental health issues in Trinidad and Tobago, amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Speaking at the Ministry of Health’s daily virtual media briefing on Wednesday, Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh said the Ministry is particularly concerned about the elderly and children, who may not understand what is happening.

Deyalsingh also announced that a mental health and psychosocial support technical working group has been set up and is being chaired by the Director of the Mental Health Unit of the Ministry of Health.

“We know that rates of stress and anxiety are going up because of isolation and quarantine. There are two particular populations we are concerned about, the elderly and also children (who may not understand what is going on). To this end, our mental health response to deal with COVID-19, we are going to present to you this morning, the outline of a national plan, where we held consultations with a range of stakeholders, NGOs, professional organisations and the University of the West Indies.”

“We have set up a technical working group that will have a life of it’s own to adapt to and to adopt plans as we move forward. The sole objective of this is to walk the country through any mental health challenges that may arise,” he announced.

Meanwhile, Dr Hazel Othello, Director of the Mental Health Unit of the Ministry of Health outlined a number of initiatives to treat with mental health in T&T.

Commenting on the establishment of the mental health team, Dr Othello said the group will meet weekly for the months of May and June, and subsequently to that, bi-weekly for as long as is required.

“The technical working group recognises that as has been frequently stated by the Minister of Health, this is not a sprint, it is a marathon. The group is committed to ensuring that the appropriate mental health and psychosocial support health services reach every identifiable target group within our communities throughout the duration of the pandemic and beyond in order to reduce suffering and improve mental health and psychosocial well being of persons affected by the global COVID-19 pandemic.”

The upcoming initiatives, she said, include :

• Training for the Ministry of Health COVID-19 helpline responders to equip to better respond to callers who may express related to their psychosocial distress

• Private sector sponsored employee assistance programmes services will be provided to Ministry of Health employees

• A series of webinars will soon begin and will target specific groups in order to provide support and to build resilience

Dr Othello also urged parents of children writing the Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) to not put unnecessary pressure on their children.

She said students should use the extra time to prepare for the exams.

Dr Othello also urged parents to ensure their children engage in recreational activities.

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