The Malta Independent 22 February 2020, Saturday

‘Holistic’ national strategy on mental health launched for public consultation

Albert Galea Wednesday, 5 December 2018, 13:28 Last update: about 2 years ago

A new, “holistic” national strategy dealing with mental health was launched for public consultation by the Health Ministry on Wednesday.

The strategy, which aims pertains for the time period between 2020 and 2030, aims for a holistic approach to the mental health sector, and contains 75 measures which look at various facets of the sector including prevention, working within the community, integrating mental health care with existing medical centres, and rehabilitation. 

Speaking in a press conference following the launch of the strategy document, Health Minister Chris Fearne said that people need to recognise that dealing with the mental health sector is not simply a question of renovating hospitals or adding more doctors; a holistic approach to the situation was needed.

Notable measures within the strategy pertain to the elderly who live alone and are more susceptible to loneliness and depression, and to helping foreigners coming to live and work in Malta and who may be more susceptible to mental health issues due to the lack of a familial framework in their new surroundings.

Substance abuse was another matter addressed, with Fearne saying that there were links between substance abuse and mental health issues – in the sense that substance abuse can lead to mental health issues; but also in the sense that those suffering from mental health issues may be more susceptible to falling into substance abuse.

Fearne also noted that there was the need to address the matter at a young age as well – three out of four people with chronic mental problems will display symptoms of such at a young age, and so, Fearne said, more support structures were need within schools, MCAST and the University of Malta but that the same structures were also needed on the workplace as well.

The Health minister also made emphasis on the integration of patients within centres that treat other physical illnesses.  The planned hospital for acute care of mental health at Mater Dei Hospital is a part of this strategy.  That hospital is slated to be finished by 2025, with work currently underway on the medical brief for the place, which will be followed by work with the Planning Authority for the acquisition of the necessary permits.  The hospital itself will take four years to be built.

Natasha Azzopardi-Muscat from the Directorate for Health Information and Research also emphasised that mental healthcare had to be further integrated into the health system and not left on the periphery.  She called the proposed reforms a “reconfiguration” rather than a revamping, whilst she also said that where necessary treatment should be carried out within the community itself.

For this benefit, the Maltese islands will be split up into four sectors – one being Gozo as a whole, and the other three being on Malta – which will each have their own dedicated team of specialists for administering care and handling follow up appointments.

The document is at the open consultation stage and the public are invited to contribute and provide feedback by 28 February 2019, after which all feedback will be reviewed and any necessary changes will be made.  Feedback can be sent either via email on [email protected] or by post to the Department for Policy in Health at the Ministry of Health in Valletta. The full strategy is available on the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister’s website, along with all other strategies pertaining to Malta’s health sector.



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