Mauritius marked the World Mental Health Day 2021 under the theme “Mental Health in an Unequal World” on 09 October 2021 at Mahebourg Hospital in the presence of the Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr Hon. Kailesh Kumar Singh Jagutpal, the Private Parliamentary Secretary, Mrs T. Jutton, the Member of Parliament, Mr R. Doolub, the World Health Organization Representative in Mauritius, Dr L. Musango, and other personalities, including the health personnel of the Mahebourg Hospital.
Dr Hon. Jagutpal, in his address, said that mental health has always been associated to stigma. He added, “93 000 patients and more than 3200 people have been admitted at the Brown Sequard Mental Hospital in 2020 in Mauritius.” The Minister of Health and Wellness emphasized the fact that children too suffer from mental health problems and 224 patients suffering from mental health problems under the age of 18 have been admitted for treatment last year.
Globally 450 million people suffer from mental health issues while more than 700 000 people suffer from a mental health ailment including suicide.
“12 psychologists and 24 psychiatrists have been recruited in view of strengthening the national mental health services and necessary resources have been mobilized for recruitment of additional psychologists to be posted in the different Ministries”, said Dr Hon Jagutpal.
Mauritius has decentralized the psychiatric services across all the regional hospitals to reach a greater number of people island wise. The same services are gradually being implemented at the level of the Mediclinics. The Ministry of Health and Wellness is also focusing on the training of health personnel in view of improving the quality of mental health care.
“The COVID-19 pandemic did not only have a medical impact but has also had an impact on people’s mental health”, said Dr Hon. Jagutpal.
Dr Laurent Musango, the WHO Representative in Mauritius, advocated for the development of a national mental health strategy in line with the WHO’s Comprehensive Mental Health Action Plan 2013-2030, recently endorsed by the World Health Assembly. He added that concerted actions are needed to promote mental health and well-being for all and prevent mental health conditions for those at risk and achieve universal coverage for mental health services.
“The World Mental Health Day should not be limited to sensitization programme. It should instead be an opportunity to empower people to care for their own mental health and better support those suffering from mental health problems,” said Dr Musango.
“Depression is one of the main mental health problems globally while one out of seven people aged 10 to 19 years old is suffering from mental health problems around the world. It is thus importance to detect cases of mental health problems for appropriate treatment”, added Dr Musango. Many of the mental health problems such as depression, anxiety and schizophrenia can be treated successfully.
“We need to address the increasing demand for mental health services, especially with the COVID-19 pandemic and work towards reducing stigmatization associated to mental health, discrimination and human rights issues”, said the WHO Representative, who congratulated the Dr Hon Jagutpal for prioritizing mental health on the national health agenda and for mobilizing the necessary resources in view of strengthening the national mental health programme. Investing in mental health not only impact positive not only on health but also on economy and society in general.
Other speakers stressed on the need to eradicate stigmatization and stereotypes associated with mental health issues. The population should be sensitized on the mental health services available and how to detect mental health problems in the family for timely treatment.
The Ministry of Health and Wellness and WHO collaborated jointly to produce five pamphlets on different mental health issues, namely depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, suicide prevention and bipolar disorder. The pamphlets launched on this occasion will be distributed widely to sensitize the population on mental health problems and where to look for support.