A Mental Health Situational Analysis Report on the British Virgin Islands conducted by Public Health of England has prompted Cabinet to call for a Plan of Action on Mental Health in the Territory.
The disclosure about Cabinet’s decision to look into the matter of mental illness was mentioned in the 12 June statement from that Cabinet sitting. It was stated that as a result of the Public Health of England study Government has decided that the requested Plan of Action on Mental Health will incorporate the main recommendations from the Situational Analysis.
Additionally, it was stated that the cost for such a Plan is expected to be finalised and presented for Cabinet’s consideration. It is a fact that even the World Health Organization from as far back as 2009 noted that the Territory did not have a Mental Health Plan. Amazingly enough, this situation had been brought to the public and authorities attention repeatedly since the 1970s by Mrs. Rita Frett-Georges. It all fell on deaf ears.
In 2009, a ‘WHO-AIMS’ report which assessed the Mental Health System in the British Virgin Islands using the WHO Assessment Instrument for Mental Health systems (WHO-AIMS) noted that: “The Territory does not have a mental health policy or plan. The disaster preparedness plan for mental health services was developed in 2000. The Mental Health Ordinance is dated 1986 and its revision is in progress.”
Other concerning issues raised in that report was the fact that Primary health care physicians are allowed to prescribe or continue the use of psychotropic medicines without restrictions. Shockingly, it was also stated that there is no human rights policy or human rights review body; and that none of the mental health facilities had an external review/inspection of human rights protection of patients and mental health workers were never trained in this area.
“The sole psychiatrist provides services to the Center, liaison services to the general hospital, and operates a private practice. Except for the psychiatrist, no other mental health worker had refresher training in the rational use of psychotropic drugs, psychosocial interventions, and child and adolescent mental health issues,” the 2009 report stated.
Additionally, the more than 10 year old report mentioned that no formal collaborative programs addressing the needs of people with mental disorders exist between the Center and other health or non-health departments/agencies. “However, there is an effective, informal referral link between the Center and all schools. One private school has a part-time mental health professional. Primary and secondary schools have access to guidance counselors,” WHO pointed out.
Further it was noted that there is no formally-defined list of individual data items that ought to be collected by mental health facilities. Data is not routinely compiled, analyzed or disseminated to the Ministry of Health. No reports covering mental health data were published by the government.