“SOONER THAN LATER”: Govt will table amendments to Mental Health Act

“SOONER THAN LATER”: Govt will table amendments to Mental Health Act

More consultation needed on Mental Health Bill

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Minister of Health Dr Michael Darville said the government will bring forth a new Mental Health Act in order to address ongoing concerns surrounding the issue in The Bahamas.

Speaking to reporters outside Cabinet, Darville said the new bill will give the government “more teeth and more tools” to be able to address a lot of the issues that exist throughout the country.

“We all live in the community and we drive from place to place and as you drive from place to place you begin to see it visibly,” he said.

“You see individuals that clearly have mental disturbances on our street and I believe for us at the Ministry of Health we must be able to address the issue of mental health in the country more effectively and the first avenue to do that is the amendment of the new Mental Health Act.”

Darville further noted that, with “some of the instances with violent crimes, there’s always a possible undertone of some mental disturbance”.

When asked when the government will seek to table that amendment bill, Darville said, “We are now looking at the final draft. I have to get more consultation on it but I would like to do it sooner than later.” 

The has been a burgeoning call to action for officials to move on mental health concerns throughout the country after compounded challenges from back-to-back devastating hurricanes and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Additionally, Sandilands Rehabilitation Centre has a moratorium in place that governs forensic admissions, though the SRC makes weekly visits to assess and treat patients at the Bahamas Department of Correctional Services.

According to an SRC spokesperson, the internal policy has been in place as part of the Public Hospitals Authority’s (PHA) COVID-19 pandemic management plan.

In an interview with Eyewitness News last year, renowned psychologist Dr Wayne Thompson, the proprietor of counseling center ‘Relationship Management’, said from Hurricane Dorian in September 2019 to the ongoing pandemic, the need for emotional, psychological and stress-related assistance due to loss of life, loss of property and loss of employment has significantly increased among the populous.

In August 2020, just months from the onset of the pandemic, Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Director Dr Carissa F. Etienne said the coronavirus pandemic had caused a mental health crisis in the region of the Americas.

Etienne called on countries in the Americas to implement swift measures to address the growing issue.

The PAHO Director urged countries to expand and invest in mental health services, work to de-stigmatize mental health, and act with innovation.

About Sloan Smith

Sloan Smith is a senior digital reporter at Eyewitness News, covering a diverse range of beats, from politics and crime to environment and human interest. In 2018, Sloan received a nomination for the “Leslie Higgs Feature Writer of The Year Award” from The Bahamas Press Club for her work with Eyewitness News.