Labour and Social Affairs completes training with Mental Health Foundation

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Minister of Health, Social Affairs and Labour Emil Lee

PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten — The Department of Labor Affairs and Social Services recently wrapped up a sensitivity training with the Mental Health Foundation (MHF) on Thursday 31 March, 2016. This sensitivity training was a key component of Phase one (1) of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed between MHF and the department.

As a governmental agency, the department services clients from every facet of the population. As a result, part of the department’s client pool is persons with mental health concerns. Therefore, it became increasingly apparent that staff members coming into direct contact with members of this population should be well trained in how to provide the best care, products and services.

The training spanned four weeks and included information on various topics such as products and services offered by MHF, global statistics on mental health disparities, information on myths and facts surrounding mental health diseases, how to communicate with or serve someone who has mental health concerns, different aspects of living with mental illnesses as well as bottlenecks addressing or serving persons living with mental health issues. The training was very holistic and pointed to some very legitimate needs within the local population.

For a long time persons with mental health illnesses have been marginalized in society. It is increasingly difficult for these persons to find jobs often times because of stigma or myths. This in turn creates a vicious cycle where persons with mental health need meaningful work in order to have a better quality of life; however, because of their illness it is difficult to be accepted in labor market culture. This realization was highlighted towards the end of the training and filters nicely into the next phase of the MOU which is creating awareness and sensitivity training for the business community.

The representatives from the Mental Health Foundation presented certificates of participation to the management and staff of the Department of Labor Affairs and Social Services on Thursday 14 April, 2016. The department is extremely happy to have completed this component of the initiative geared towards promoting awareness about and better serving persons with mental health disparities. It was a successful first step towards strides to alleviate this issue.

The next phase of this initiative is to engage the business community in sensitivity trainings as well. The hope is that once business owners, human resource managers and work personnel have a better understanding of persons with mental health illnesses, the labor market will become more inclusive of these marginalized persons. The reality is that persons with mental illness can be productive members of society once their illness is detected, properly diagnosed and accurately treated. Persons with mental illness can work; and in fact, they should work as there are benefits both for the person and society at large. Therefore, all stakeholders are in anticipation of the next leg of this initiative soon to be unfolded.

The department would like to thank the Mental Health Foundation for their time and dedication in administering the sensitivity training and look forward to a continued successful working relationship.