The World Health Organisation’s mental health management guide ‘Doing what matters in times of stress’, has been adapted for the Caribbean and is now readily accessible to the region. It features relatable and simple activities, designed to help people of all ages to cope with adversity and better manage stress.
The guide was launched on Friday, January 14, by the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) and the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), to answer the call to prioritise mental health service delivery. Mental health services form a key area of the region’s COVID-19 response, particularly because of the many difficulties caused by the pandemic. These include mental pressures associated with job loss, restricted face to face education, violence and illness.
“Unfortunately, many of the existing mental health services have been disrupted because of the pandemic, with people getting less access to counselling, mental health care and even education where needed – these are all sources of stress that we are facing today, and PAHO has consistently called on countries and societies to prioritise mental health in such difficult times,” Dr Renato Oliveira Souza, Unit Chief, Mental Health and Substance Use, PAHO/WHO, advised.
The launch featured a panel discussion with Mr Dean Chambliss, PAHO/WHO Subregional Program Director, Dr Claudina Cayetano, Regional Advisor for Mental Health, PAHO/WHO, and Dr Martin Baptiste, Senior Operations Officer, Social Sector Division, CDB.
“Here in the Region of the Americas, depression continues to be the leading mental health disorder, and twice as frequent in women than in men. However, resources allocated by countries to tackle this burden, are often insufficient. Multisectoral collaboration and partnerships are therefore critical to tackle mental health challenges and promote mental well-being,” Mr Chambliss said.
Dr Baptiste corroborated his sentiments and noted that in 2018, CDB and PAHO agreed to deliver a joint project with the aim of building regional capacity for mental health and psychosocial support in disaster management. That project came in the wake of the unprecedented devastation of experience with the passage of Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017. “Of course, none of us could have imagined that just two years on, we would be in this unchartered territory that COVID-19 has presented. If anything, the pandemic has underscored the importance of personal resilience. It is also a key requirement for sustainable human development,” Dr Baptiste noted.
The publication is a joint effort that addresses gaps in mental health service support, by promoting access to credible, easy to learn management activities to reduce stress. The guide has five sections that focus on different techniques to cope with stress. Readers can go through the sections of the video library in a self-paced manner, or read through the book, taking time to practice the exercises and use the learning in the time in between.
“The primary preparation is to purposefully allocate time to read the book or listen to the audio book, and to find time and space to apply the learning and practice the techniques offered – remember that the techniques and actions offered are evidence based,” Dr Cayetano instructed.