Urgent Action needed to solve Mental Health Crisis in Antigua and Barbuda

Chaneil Imhoff

Over the last few days, I have been following the developments surrounding Claudene Moore and her declining mental health which led to a public episode on Old Parham Road on Saturday.

According to reports, she was taken to the Sir Lester Bird Medical Center where she was restrained and medicated but subsequently escaped the Hospital and had to be located by her family.

Several attempts were made by family and advocates to get answers as to why this was allowed to happen and they have still not received an acceptable explanation. This is not the first time that this has happened to a patient who had been restrained.

Therefore, I am adding my voice to that of Mary John, who has been assisting this family and many others and calling for an investigation into this matter.

This news is very troubling not only because this is someone who is personally known to me but because of the multiple layers of bureaucracy that a patient has to endure to receive proper mental health care.

While procedure is necessary, it must also be efficient and accessible. Our current intake and referral pathway for Clarevue Psychiatric is outdated and in many cases, prohibitive. The blood work and other medical clearances that must be done are not always readily available at the hospital and can fall in the range of $500 or more at private labs.

In addition to this, the internal politics that exists at the lone Psychiatric Hospital and by extension, the substantive Ministry plays a large part in the systemic issues that plague our mental health system.

To solve these problems in the short term:

  • The passing of the Mental Health Act must be prioritized and all relevant stakeholders must be consulted to ensure that the legislation is clear and effective;

  • The intake and referral process to the Clarevue Psychiatric Hospital must be reviewed and updated to fit the needs of patients;

  • Sustained Education programs must be executed to educate the public on mental health, mental illnesses and recovery pathways.

In the long term, the Clarevue Psychiatric needs to be relocated to a larger, green space that will allow for proper rehabilitation and create an enabling environment for mental, spiritual and physical growth.

The current facilities leave much to be desired and the staff must also have access to a clean, resourced and positive working environment to give the best possible care to their patients. It must be run like an actual hospital and given the care and attention that it needs.

This will be no easy feat, so I am calling all mental health professionals and advocates to add their voices to this discussion so that we can inspire action to improve the standard of care and to mitigate challenges before they escalate.

Our country is facing an unprecedented mental health crisis among people of all ages. Stigma, discrimination and human rights violations against people with mental health conditions are widespread in communities and care systems everywhere. In Antigua and Barbuda and the wider Caribbean, there is a combination of cultural, economic, social and political reasons which explain why mental health has long been neglected.

The socio-economic situation has allowed for poverty, income inequality and unemployment to become deeply rooted in degrading mental health. On average a country from the Caribbean spends only 4.3 per cent of its healthcare budget on mental health. This is unsurprising as the economies are structured around two to three key industries, which means mental health is left underdeveloped.

The Police Force, Defense Force, Teachers, Nurses, and all other essential workers must be consistently and professionally trained in Mental Health First Aid to be in a position to assist in the event of a Mental Health Crisis.

Those interested in being a part of a large-scale project to improve our system can reach out to 1 268 785 0756 or [email protected].

The only way to make a difference is by doing it together.

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  1. keep up the good work Chaniel

    • Let us not forget about Mary John who has been very instrumental in getting assistance those who are vulnerable such as the vagrants & the mentally ill also.
      In addition we the citizens & residents of this nation need to accept that mental illness is a sickness like any other illness. Therefore, those who are well and able need to reach out and desist in making fun of them.
      Sickness of any nature can be contracted by anyone at anytime. Today, Claudene is a victim of mental illness but who can tell what will happen tomorrow.
      You or I may find ourselves in a similar position and will need that help also. Becareful!!

    • We need better mental health care for people who don’t need to be restrained too.. preventative care so people don’t get to that point.. it’s more expensive to treat people who are already very sick.. than giving help to people who start just needing some help.

  2. Until someone in the upper class get dem head buss, things wont change. Anyway, we are glad to see that more personable people are working at the mental hospital these days.

  3. In Antigua we love the knee jerk reaction. If a person is taken to any medical centre because they are mentally unstable there becomes a point when they can not be restrained anymore against they will. The family members should have coordinated with the facility to ensure that once restraints have to be moved a plan is in place to safe guard the patient.
    Many times family members complain abd have sued medical workers for holding their mentally sick relatives.
    As a person who has worked in the mental health system for many years the main problem lies with family members who just want to dump off the mentally sick on the health care workers. They then seek to play no further role in their care. Do we do the same for patients with cancer or a stroke?

    • In this situation, the family is there every step of the way regardless of what others say. The system is the problem here – her family just needs her to be well.

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