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Oct 10, 2014

World Mental Health Day Celebrated in Belize

World Mental Health Day is being celebrated under the theme – Living with Schizophrenia. Today health stakeholders from all over the country gathered in their respective areas to speak on that issue, and others affecting the mental health of the nation. In Belize City the ceremony was hosted at the Mental Health Welcome Resource Centre, with the participation of Ministry of Health reps, psychologists and psychiatrists, caregivers, the PAHO/WHO country representative and of course, those affected by mental illness. Mike Rudon was at the centre and has the story.

 

Mike Rudon, Reporting

There are many persons, diagnosed and undiagnosed, living with mental illness and disorders in Belize. With the proper medication and proper care, many of those individuals can live normal lives and continue to play a vital role in their respective areas. That was the message sent out at the event today. The focus is on schizophrenia, and the fact that as a mental illness it cannot be self-diagnosed.

 

Eleanor Bennett, Nursing Administrator, National Mental Health Program

Eleanor Bennett

“Many people suffer with mental health problems and people don’t know. Because with treatment they are able to lead normal lives. So you will never know who lives with schizophrenia, I will never tell you and you will never know. But when somebody has schizophrenia, it’s hard for them to ell that they have schizophrenia because the nature of the disease is such that they perception, what they think hear feel etc is distorted. So this reality does not mean the same for them, they live in a reality that they have no insight, they don’t know that they are sick.”

 

Because of that, many of the persons getting treatment in Belize have been referred by family members who notice that something is drastically wrong. According to Bennett, the condition does not appear overnight, but is a gradual degeneration and there are signs.

 

Eleanor Bennett

“There is a phase  before the disease actually comes, so the person might be very withdrawn, they would want to lock themselves up in the room and not want to socialize, they prefer to be on their own, they might be hearing voices so you look out for…maybe they would be mumbling to themselves. Then they have very strange and ideas, like the television were mentioning their name and talking about them, those are what we call delusions. For young people though before the disease happens the family should look out for a period of total withdrawal, difficulty concentrating in school, so that may be falling grades they might have difficulty expressing themselves.”

 

The facility in which we all stood today wasn’t the topic of attention, but it certainly caught ours. After all, persons suffering from mental illness often feel that there is nowhere to turn – but there is. There is no medication provided at the Welcome Resource Centre – it is all about making those who enter its doors feel that there is a place they can call home for a time, a sanctuary where they can be understood.

 

Joyce Ellis, Administrator, Welcome Resource Centre

Joyce Ellis

“We provide the social aspect in terms of getting them a bath, a change of clothes, interacting with others and speak to them on a one on one basis from time to time we get people to come in and sit and talk with them . They are just like us so we ask the general public, if you want to have firsthand experience with someone who lives with schizophrenia come visit the centre, sit with them, talk with them, you will realize that the only thing that separates them from us is condition that they are going through.”

 

There are a total of three hundred and ninety four persons registered at the centre. Thirty-eight are females. While the focus of this year’s theme is schizophrenia, the Welcome Centre is open to anybody, with any mental incapacity.

 

Joyce Ellis

The mental illness varies from schizophrenia to bipolar disorder. Some of them are old age; some of them is just basically the drug issue. Some of them deported and have nowhere to go, that in itself is a mental strain and they come here from time to time to take a shower, have a change of clothes, and relax. Be a little out of the element like this week there was a whole lot of rain so we had a crowd on Monday. Friday is our recreation day so if the general public want to come, you can come in on a Friday and do something with them, bring little tokens for them to personal items of course we ask for that they can use for themselves. Just come in and interact with our participants and let them feel like we are somebody, we are a part of this society.”

 

And while this is just one facility, there is care available countrywide. So if you see your brother exhibiting signs consistent with those spoken of today, this is what you should do.

 

Eleanor Bennett

“Get your brother to the nearest mental health clinic, the government has a psychiatric clinic at every centre all over the city. In Belize City we have one at the Cleopatra Clinic and one at Port Loyola Health Centre. And if it an emergency where their behaviour is very unmanageable, they are very agitated that person can access service at any emergency room at any of the hospitals all  over the country.”

 

Today Welcome Resource Centre Administrator Joyce Ellis used the opportunity to ask for assistance in the form of clothing…particularly male clothing, of any size. Belts and footwear would also be greatly appreciated.

 

If you would like to assist with clothing for the Welcome Resource Centre, you can call Joyce Ellis at 202-2511. And if you’d like to visit, the facility is located at the corner of Vernon and Tibruce Streets in Belize City.

 

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