Without mental health, there can be no true physical health

Dear Editor,
Minister of Health, Dr Frank Anthony recently announced that a health-screening initiative will be launched in schools nationwide through a joint effort by the Ministries of Health and Education. The programme will offer preventive care and opportunities for healthy lifestyles, through early detection of any health-related issues, and foster an understanding of the importance of maintaining an active lifestyle and consuming a nutritious diet.
Through screening students from nursery to secondary schools, the programme aims to gather data over time to compare and intervene as needed to tackle the diverse challenges present in classrooms while simultaneously mitigating potential learning setbacks thus proactively preventing the onset of diseases and thereby promoting overall well-being.
The Caribbean Voice is certain that the Honourable Health Minister is aware of the aphorism offered by Dr Brock Chisholm, psychiatrist and the first Director-General of the World Health Organisation (WHO), who famously stated that “without mental health, there can be no true physical health”.
The Honourable Minister is also acutely aware of starting health care as early as possible, thus this new programme. Therefore, it is quite an enigma that absolutely nothing has been mentioned about mental health in this programme. Perhaps it was an oversight?
Please, Minister Dr Frank Singh, tell the nation that this new programme does indeed include mental health, that mental health screening will also be offered, longitudinal data will be gathered and interventions made as necessary, and preventative and supportive mental health care ensue, so that school system will be producing overall healthy individuals or optimising students’ learning potential and output and that no student will be left behind, regardless of how ‘challenged’ that student may be.
After all, no amount of physical health screening and care can “tackle the diverse challenges present in classrooms while simultaneously mitigating potential learning setbacks” if mental health is neglected. Every teacher will point to the fact that their classroom’s diverse challenges generally include significant mental health issues that general education teachers are not trained and equipped to handle and that result in unhealthy lifestyles, even among the most physically healthy students.

Best wishes,
Annan Boodram