Conference gets to the roots of mental illness

POSTED: 11/12/15 6:44 PM


mental health conferenceWorkshop at the mental health conference in progress. Photo contributed

Belair, St. Maarten – The Mental Health Foundation (MHF) facilitated a resonating conference on community and person-centered treatment planning at the Belair Community Centre last Thursday and Friday.

The 2015 Mental Health Conference was held in collaboration with The Institute for Progressive Living and Empowerment (IPLE), a New York based organization of mental health clinicians that promote culturally sensitive, evidenced based interventions within communities. The event was opened by Ministry of Public Health, Social Development and Labor Minister Rafael Boasman on Thursday and Member of Parliament Leona Marlin-Romeo on Friday.

Participants included professionals from SMMC, SVPCN, Court of Guardianship, Department of Labor Affairs, Student Support Services Division, Strafgevangenis en Huis van Bewaring, and other notable health organizations.

In honor of Mental Health Awareness month in October, MHF Medical Coordinator and Psychiatrist M.B.D.S, M.D., D.P.M., Dr. Jatinder Kour and Social Psychiatric Worker Giselle Codrington announced the theme as “Dignity in Mental Health”. The presenter’s covered person-centered treatment, harm reduction with addiction disorders, trauma informed care, and DISC Profiles: looking at bias, values and judgment and the impact of service delivery, during their highly relevant workshops. New York City Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) Director and Social Worker M.S.W. Pascal Jean-Noel highlighted during her workshop “we have tools we would like to share in these islands starting with St. Maarten”. These tools encompass changing perspective as a mental health professional and primary care provider to allow consumers to “reclaim their own life in the community” as “recovery belongs to the person”.

ACT Coordinator and Social Worker M.S.W. Gary Clark focused on goal-setting during his workshop in context of harm reduction. Clark notes that “substance abuse is a disease of progression”, and he advised that we cannot enforce complete abstinence, but we can create a paradigm shift to reduce harm inflicted during substance abuse by strategizing alongside the consumer towards an established goal. Clark brought back the theme of “Dignity” by emphasizing “working with the person to allow them to take responsibility of their own behavior”.

Coordinator of Clinical Services at the Beth Israel Hospital and L.C.S.W. Social Worker Lisa Stephen posed questions about getting to the root of mental illness rather than trying to cure it. She communicated the importance of recognizing effects of past trauma to identify how to implement intervention. Stephen explained that “motivational interviewing and stage of change” techniques are some key tools to institute positive change in the consumer. For example, “roll with the resistance, express empathy and develop discrepancies.”

Family Therapist at Brooklyn Community Services (BCS) and Social Worker M.S.W. Evans Castelon encouraged attendees to rethink how they perceive clients and how your own personal values, traditions, experiences and norms play a role. The DISC profile serves to jog skills in term of communication style and service delivery. MHF noted in the conference evaluations that many attendees would love for this to become an annual event and deeply appreciated how mental health professionals abroad conceptualized community and person-centered care. The conference served as a platform for personal growth and development, networking and expanding professionalism in mental health care.

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