Dr. Ermine Belle speaking at the First Health Extravaganza facilitated by The Committee to Monitor the Implementation of the National Policy on Ageing under the Ministry of Social Care, Constituency empowerment and Community Development.

‘Not a scourge’

Mental Health is not a scourge reiterated Dr. Ermine Belle, Retired Consultant Psychiatrist.

She was speaking at the First Health Extravaganza facilitated by The Committee to Monitor the Implementation of the National Policy on Ageing under the Ministry of Social Care, Constituency empowerment and Community Development at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre. According to her, “mental health is equally important as physical health, it is difficult for a lot of people to understand that because they have been brought up to think mental health is a scourge, but it is not a scourge, it is a situation which arises out of distress and many other factors that all of us at some time in our life will experience.”

She told the audience, “You have to respect that you have done a lot physically and mentally, you have worked hard to reach this age and we need to understand our bodies are a scarred vessel and it has to be looked after properly. What is really terrible, is that the youth are neglected as far as mental health is concerned because people say ‘they are young, they will get over it’ and then on the other side persons say ‘the elderly have been through a lot they should know how to handle themselves’. This is not true, all of us are vulnerable, for example look at our beautiful centenarians they have reached there because they have been able to manage the stresses of life, however some of them have to deal with loneliness because all of their friends have gone, and for the elderly in general – loneliness – that is psychological stress.

“It is important you have to live with your disability and don’t let your disability stop you from living. You do what you can. I had a sister who suffered from multiple sclerosis and every day she would call in on the radio programme and she felt good because she was still part of society. For persons that are infirmed you need people to do a lot for you. Imagine you were healthy, active and suddenly you can’t do that anymore; you feel less of a person – you feel like a burden. It is not easy but you have to understand you need help for situations like that and sometimes you need to come to seek help, to talk to someone,” she added.

Dr. Belle highlighted, “Of course there is dementia and Alzheimer’s and these things will happen with some, but not everyone; also when you have chronic diseases you can become severely depressed, but depression has no place in any of our lives. We have to recognise the signs and symptoms and go quickly to get help, so that we can out our chemicals back into function, because depression is a chemical disease. It is an illness that is caused by the changes in the substances in our brain that help us to feel happy, so it can be handled. However, you have to recognise when you are not feeling well, not sleeping, not eating, not getting along with persons around you etc. Go and seek help, do not feel ashamed. Ageing is not a sin, it is an asset; our bodies will therefore change but we are here and it is important to take care of yourself both mentally and physically.” (NB)

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