The GMWS welcomes the recent discussion in the House regarding mental health. It considers the questions raised by the Opposition to be of great importance because it is very necessary to have concrete figures to work with. The number of people on psychiatric medication in Gibraltar, although considerable, seems to mirror statistics in other Western countries. This is not to say that this figure should not concern us, but it reflects the problems that people are contending with everywhere in the Western world, and not specifically in our community. The reasons why people are accessing psychiatric medication are multiple and this would need a study in its own right.
What is required, as both Leaders in Government and Opposition accepted, is to ensure that individuals are receiving the help they need, not just in terms of medication, but in terms of talking therapies. It is generally acknowledged by mental health professionals that a combination of both strategies yields the best results. Although according to the GHA Board Report, waiting times to see a consultant psychiatrist or a counsellor are down to between 4 to 6 weeks, this can still be a very long time for somebody with a pressing need.
Still, the fact of the matter remains that we will only know exactly how much more provision needs to be put into place, when we have a clear assessment of the current situation. And this will only be possible, if the facts are laid in front of us.
For this reason, the GMWS reiterates, once again, that the Mental Health Audit results should be published. Although Minister Balban said that the report was still under review-after seven months- this does not seem a convincing reason to hold back publication. The Minister for Health also said that although the report had not been published “ quite a few recommendations had been put into effect.” It would be very useful to know which these are.
We feel that the Government can carry on rolling out recommendations, at the same time as it allows stakeholders, and the community in general, to know what the findings of the audit are. As an NGO campaigning for better mental health provision, and as one of the many contributors to the audit, the GMWS would certainly like to know the contents of the report so that it can be clearer about its objectives. For this reason, we welcome the Chief Minister’s unequivocal commitment to the publication of the report, but would like this to be done without further delay.