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Minnis: Substance abuse, violence impacting mental health of youth in region

Violence and substance abuse, particularly the use of alcohol, tobacco and marijuana among young people, are the most significant factors affecting the prevalence of mental health disorders in the Caribbean, according to Minister of Health Dr. Hubert Minnis.

Minnis said on Wednesday that mental health disorders are responsible for 13 percent of the disease burden worldwide, as documented by the World Health Organization (WHO) in its report ‘Mental Health in Development’.

“With the global economic downturn… the risk of adverse mental health is rising in the region and around the globe,” said Minnis during the 2011 Caribbean Regional Conference of Psychology (CRCP) at the Wyndham Nassau Resort.

“It is estimated that depression will be the third highest cause of the disease burden in low-income [and middle-income] countries by the year 2030,” he said.

The WHO report notes that most of the mental health disorders like schizophrenia, depression, mental retardation, and mental disorders due to drug abuse, can be successfully treated.

Minnis noted that Caribbean nations need to include the psychological sciences in their long-term growth and development plans.

“Of particular concern is the treatment gap, which is known to occur.  Over one third of individuals with non-effective psychosis, and over one half of those with effective anxiety disorder, including depression, do not receive healthcare.

“We know that mental health problems place a severe financial burden on individuals and households, and the families of these individuals endure discrimination and victimization, depriving them of their political and civil rights.”

Minnis said that discrimination toward individuals suffering from mental health disorders constrains their ability to operate and function in public life, which further disenfranchises them.

“Governments and societies are urged to invest more, both in human and financial terms, in promoting mental health and providing adequate services to those who need them,” he said.

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