Chief Operating Officer of The Mid-Atlantic Wellness Institute spoke to us on mental illness in Bermuda and her vision for Bermuda's only hospital for the mentally ill.

 

 

The Mid-Atlantic Wellness Institute should not be viewed as a "lunatic asylum", but rather the well-respected mental health service organisation that it is.  We need to break the stigmas surrounding mental illness. Many people who lack knowledge believe the myths surrounding mental health, but in reality anyone can become vulnerable to illnesses, including: depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder and dementia.  "Mental health can affect anybody no matter what their religious, ethnic or racial background. It doesn't just happen to the poor, it can happen if you have a lot of money, and it can happen to anybody. 

One's mental health is just as important as one's physical health and must not be taken for granted. The brain is a very important organ in your body and if it is not functioning properly it will affect the way the other organs function."

 

MWI has been in existence since 1875 and is "well-respected" both locally and internationally for its work in areas, such as mental health, learning disabilities, substance abuse and child and adolescent services.  The institution has maintained its accreditation from the Canadian Council of Accreditation since 1970 and has also been accredited by The Royal College of Psychiatrists in the United Kingdom, to serve as a teaching hospital for junior doctors training to become Consultant Psychiatrists. "Bermuda is way ahead of the game in terms of service delivery. We are not behind at all; we are very much in the cutting edge when it comes to our service.

 

The institution changed its name from St. Brendan's Hospital to Mid-Atlantic Wellness Institute in 2005 for several reasons, namely to truly represent the services offered   We are not just a hospital we do a lot of community programmes, we run group homes and clinics, do a lot of outreach and educational presentations. We are not just an in-patient treatment centre.  We needed to offer a new beginning to help destigmatise the issues surrounding mental illness for the Island of Bermuda.   We no longer wanted to be considered the asylum or a lunatic asylum.  Instead MWI is a therapeutic institution that has clinical programmes to address different specialties of mental health services.

 

Though the institution has come a long way they still face challenges, for instance, trying to get Bermudians to work in fields like psychiatry or nursing.  Currently at MWI, there are four psychiatrists on staff, all of whom are non-Bermudian; in addition 70 percent of the in-patient nursing staff are also foreigners. Right now, there are two Bermudians who have finished their schooling and plan to go into psychiatry, and it is expected there will be another four graduates by 2010 or 2011, but there is still a need.

 

In closing Patrice asked Rotarians to "become mental health advocates" and advocate not only for their own health, but also for the mental health of others, "to ensure that Bermuda can remain the paradise that we have come to know".