Speaking out on mental health issues and care

DEAR EDITOR, the Island Sun newspaper yesterday, Wednesday, May 2, 2018, featured a very important article dealing with mental health issues in the Solomon Islands.

The article, entitled ‘Mental Health needs Advocacy’ summarized the findings of a recent workshop held in Auki where Dr Rex Maukera from the National Psychiatric Unit at the Kilu’u Hospital had talked about mental health and stressed the importance of disseminating information on the serious health problem to health practitioners.

Interestingly, quoting the Sun’s article, Dr Maukera said to those attending the workshop, “One area of importance is the understanding that a healthy life does not simply mean the absence of disease or physical illness.

“Health also associates with our thinking which means if you are not thinking right or always thinking negative it also affects your health.

“We talk about major mental disorders and minor mental disorders, for example, anxiety disorder, stress disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. “

Twenty years ago as the local Police Commissioner I expressed my concerns about the way in which the use of marijuana and the consumption of kwaso (local brew) was affecting the thinking of many young people and warned of the long-term mental health concerns of those young people.

I went so far as to visit a Western Australian Drug Advisory Centre where I obtained a supply of informative literature on the use of marijuana and then had the health warnings re-published locally.

Referring to what Dr Maukera had to say about anxiety disorders, stress and post-traumatic stress disorders, have we stopped to consider how those conditions relating to mental health might now be attributed to current and future rising sea levels in our remote coastal regions?

I concur with Dr Maukera on the need to bring the issue of mental health into the open, for training and for the wider development of reforms and partnerships to emphasise the importance of greater community ownership in community-based mental health care.

It has to be borne in mind that in the Solomon Islands the distribution of skilled health workers and resources is severely hampered by geographical imbalances and financial restraints and moving to local and accessible mental health care makes sense.

Yours sincerely

Frank Short

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