HOUSE SPEAKER Brigid Annisette-George is advocating for a focus on mental health wellness, as part of a greater awareness for mental health care in TT.
“Mental health is something we used to think of to the confines of people at (St Ann’s Mental Hospital) but it takes on so many forms; in a way, maybe all of us suffer from a degree of mental ill-health and I think we need to start seeing that,” Annisette-George told Newsday yesterday at the TT Association of Psychologists (TTAP) annual social, held at the Hilton Trinidad, St Ann’s.
A lot of the things playing out in society may have their foundation in mental health, she said, so models of development need to factor in a mental health component, and not just from the illness standpoint, but from a general well-being.
Annisette-George acknowledged her own dismissal of the importance of mental health when she was younger, but now, she said, she has come to appreciate the importance of taking a break, if only to clear one’s mind from mental exhaustion.
In Parliament, for example, she noted, the mid-year break was jealously guarded, not just in terms of a vacation, but a chance to recharge.
“We need respite, even if they’re brief, to process.
“I know when I’m very tired, my recall begins to wane. That may be not a sign of mental illness, but of mental ill-health.”
A regular part of her routine, she added, is yoga, long walks and now, meditation, to help her clear her mind.
President of TTAP, Dr Margaret Nakhid-Chatoor, said the association estimated around 30 per cent of the population suffered from mental illness or something related to it.
“There must be public awareness campaigns to decriminalise and de-stigmatise mental health because there’s a stigma attached to it.
“A lot of the children and adolescents who have mental health conditions, their parents do not seek help because they think their kids will be labelled.” TT has a long way to go, she said, especially in schools, as she noted the importance of preventative psychology.
“You don’t want to reach the point where you’re putting money into the prisons to address the fallout rather than early care for these people and training for teachers. A lot of our money goes to the adult population when really when you look at our prisons, it’s the young people, between 19 and 35, inside.”
The silver lining, though is that, slowly, the stigma is fading, as, Nakhid-Chatoor said, more people become aware of psychological services, they are starting to seek out help.