First responders in St. Kitts receive mental health emergency training

(SKNIS): The Ministry of Health, in an effort to strengthen the community approach and capacity to dealing with mental health is partnering with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) to conduct a three day work shop from May 15 -17 on training first responders to intervene in mental health emergencies, to review the Mental Health Gap (mhGAP) implementation plan to identification of areas for collaboration and integration, and the review of the Standard Operating Procedure for the Mental Health Day Treatment Centre.

The workshop has been facilitated by Dr. Claudina Cayetano, Consultant Psychiatrist, and Dr. Patrice Lawrence-Williams, Advisor for Chronic Diseases at PAHO Barbados.

The first responders training will serve to equip the responders with the skill sets necessary to assess and manage persons challenged with mental illness and to improve their personal professional interactions with these persons and to be able to assist them in crisis situations. The first responders participated in a Psychological First Aid (PFA) simulation to build a ready cadre of trained emergency responders prepared to assist communities in times of crisis or disaster.

Dr. Cayetano noted that this training is very important to assist the ministry in early intervention, to teach the importance of personal mental health, as well as the training of the first responders for them to recognize mental health problems.

“We try to partner with other ministries but especially the Ministry of Health in terms of assisting and strengthening mental health services and health programmes because we know that there is limited human resources. It is very important for us to support the work that the ministry is doing. The ministry is doing a great job,” she said.

She said that she is pleased to be working with the Ministry of Health once again on this important initiative as mental health is increasingly becoming a topic of focus for the health sector.

“It was very satisfying to see the government officials on board to be able to support this. They were very clear about the importance of mental health and for us in PAHO we say that there is no health without mental health. Your mental health has to be number one,” she stated.

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