Governor John P. de
Jongh, Jr. has proclaimed May, 2012 as “Mental Health Month,” the week of May 6-12 as “Children's Mental Health Awareness Week” and May 9 as “Children's Mental Health Day” in the Virgin Islands to encourage the community to learn more about mental illness and overcome the stigmas and fears associated with mental disorders.
Studies suggest that one in every five Americans is affected by mental illness, including more than fifty million Americans who are coping with conditions such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. Far too often, symptoms are ignored due to a lack of information, discrimination, perceived stigmas or fear of treatment.
This month, mental health professionals and communities throughout the nation are encouraging dialogue regarding recognizing symptoms, receiving a proper diagnosis from a qualified practitioner or doctor, securing needed treatment and taking steps to maintain good mental health year-round.
“Early recognition and treatment are key to guiding recovery efforts, and it is essential that those with symptoms feel comfortable and confident in seeking treatment to assist the recovery process towards an independent and self-fulfilling life,” Governor de Jongh said.
In recognition of Mental Health Month, First Lady Cecile de Jongh launched a public awareness campaign to encourage members of the community to be sensitive to those with mental illness conditions. Mrs. de Jongh partnered with the non-profit organizations 10,000 Helpers of St. Croix and Clear Blue Sky on St. Thomas in launching the “Be a Friend” campaign. The initiative calls attention to the need to support loved ones who are coping with mental illness and provides educational information to help guide those who may have questions. Television and radio commercials will be broadcast in both districts throughout the month to remind Virgin Islanders of the ongoing efforts in our community to help others and in tribute to those who help, guide, nurture and care for the mentally ill in our community.
“Mental illness is the most prevalent health problem in America today. It affects more people than cancer, lung disease and heart disease combined. These conditions, in their many forms, should not be shunned or ignored, as they are largely now due to the social stigma associated with the conditions. It simply makes good sense that we treat both the body and mind in caring for our overall health and wellness needs,” the first lady said.
In describing the “Be a Friend” public awareness campaign, Mrs. de Jongh explained the high societal cost of not seeking care and the importance of proper diagnosis and treatment. “Mental illness, like any other physical illness, such as diabetes or heart disease, should not go unchecked and requires medical attention. Left untreated, these conditions can cause avoidance behavior, depression, drug abuse, alcoholism, feelings of despair and helplessness, as well as various other issues. We can all help through our acceptance of others, and through patience and understanding. There is absolutely no shame in having a mental illness.”
As part of Mental Health Month, the Department of Health invites residents to participate in Open House activities in both districts to obtain helpful information. Open Houses will be held on Wednesday, May 9, 2012 from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm at Barbel Plaza on St. Thomas and on Thursday, May 11, 2012 from 9:00 am to 12:00 pm at the Charles Harwood Medical Complex on St. Croix. Additionally, the department will feature educational presentations, including how to manage stress, throughout May.
Governor and First Lady de Jongh commend all those in the public, private and non-profit sectors who assist in providing services to the mentally ill, and encourage all Virgin Islanders, as well as government agencies, businesses and civic organizations, to openly discuss mental health issues and to participate in activities scheduled throughout the month.