Today was observed as World Mental Health Day and in Belize it was highlighted with awareness campaigns at all public health clinics throughout the country.
This year's theme focuses on depression - which affects more people than any other mental disorder. And although depression is a treatable disease, it is said that six out of every ten people who have depression in Latin America and the Caribbean do not seek or do not receive the treatment they need.
Opening ceremonies for World Mental Health Day in Belize City was held at the BTL Park - where clinical psychiatrist, Dr. Claudina Cayetano - spoke about the importance of awareness about this disorder that affects more that 350 million people around the world.
Dr. Claudina Cayetano - Clinical Psychiatrist
"The minister is very supportive of this day, not only for Belize City. We have activities in every district, from Punta Gorda to Corozal. In Punta Gorda, they also have walks, as well as Dangriga. They had a balloon lift-off. Belmopan had a walk this morning. Orange Walk is having a debate, and Corozal had a walk, as well as Belize City. So, every district, we encourage them to have these kinds of activities, to call attention to the importance of mental health. There is a lot of stigma when you speak about mental health and mental illness. And so, because we tend to associate mental with mental illness, people do suffer from mental illnesses. Because of the stigma, people don't seek help. SO, I think that this is one day that is dedicated to create awareness. It's not only from the Ministry of Health, as you heard this morning, we had the Pan American Health Organization, and the Mental Health Association who are advocating and very supportive of this day. The idea is that people who suffer from mental illness can come and seek help early, so that they dont deteriorate because you don't want to be suffering from a chronic illness. And when you suffer from a chronic illness, you don't get the quality of life that you would like to have. I would perhaps want to mention a little bit about diabetes, for example. If someone has a family history of diabetes, they know that because they have seen their family. So, what you do is that you have to get on a diet; you have to check your blood pressure. Now, you don't pay attention to that, they will have to cut off your legs. Soon after, you lose your eyesight because you allow it to become chronic. Now, let's look at mental illness. You have someone who suffers from depression, and depression can come in many forms. People have physical symptoms; people have psychological symptoms, but they can dismiss it because of the stigma. So, chances are that one of the unfortunate outcomes is that they can commit suicide. People should not kill themselves because of an illness that is treatable. Every year, there is a theme. Last year's theme was Investing In Mental Health. The year before was Mental Health and Chronic Illness. So, every year, there is a theme. This year is because of the awareness; a lot of people suffer from depression. And not only depression by itself, people who a chronic disease such a cardiovascular disease or cancer, may have depression. So, we look at that as a global crisis. So that was the theme for this year, to encourage people to come for treatment. So, if you have someone, who has cancer, and they are depressed, the chances for them to get better are very slim because they don't want to go for their treatments; they have low energy and low motivation. So, they don't even help themselves to get better. And that is not because of cancer, it can be because of the depression. So, it is important for people to be aware that when they have a disorder, and they have depression, they should look into that because it helps them to be motivated to be able to look after themselves. And the recovery is much faster than if they are only taking care of the physical illness and not the psychological part as well."
World Mental Health Day is held annually on the 10th of October. This year it is celebrated under the theme "Depression: A Global Crisis".