Mental health crisis intervention must be available 24/7, commissioner insists

Mental health commissioner calls for shift of mental health care from hospitals to community, urges employers to grant sick leave to employees suffering from mental health 

The mental health commissioner has reiterated his call for Mater Dei’s crisis intervention unit to be extended to a 24/7 service.

In a statement to mark World Mental Health Day, John Cachia also called for mental health care services to shift from hospitals to the community and urged more employers to give sick leave to employees suffering from mental health problems.

He warned that 20% of the working-age population at any given moment suffer from mental health problems and that half of all employed people will suffer a period of poor mental health during their working lifetime.

“Employers and employees must widen the agenda for better mental health at the workplace, and measures should include active promotion of mental health and well-being, ongoing risk assessment, with early detection and management of stress and mental health problems.”

Cachia also called on families and health and education professionals to grow more aware of the signs of mental health problems in illness, so as to identify such problems as early as possible.

“Untreated mental disorder in the young severely influences the overall personal development and achievements, impairs educational attainment and diminishes the potential of a fulfilling productive life. Other challenges include stigma, isolation and discrimination.”  

During 2015, round 2000 people in Malta required acute hospital care for serious mental health problems, mostly for brief spells lasting less than 15 days. The majority sought help voluntarily or agreed to be admitted, but 400 had to be admitted involuntarily due to the severity of the condition.

“These are not just numbers, but people, families and individuals within our circles,” Cachia said, while warning that the actual number of mental health sufferers is likely to be much higher as several do not seek treatment.

“Action priorities require significant financial outlay and human resource investment together with bold service re-engineering in health, education and social welfare systems.

“Our economy and the sustainability of our existence as a successful nation today relies mainly if not solely on human brain capital,” he said. “Mainstreaming mental health and ‘thinking’ mental health daily is not an option. It is a national policy priority.”

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