IN an effort to ensure that its employees are informed and equipped to deal with various mental health disorders, the Ministry of Health held an in-house Mental Health Drama Competition, titled "Dealing with Depression", at City Hall Auditorium in Port of Spain on September 28.
The competition is part of the Ministry's drive to help raise awareness within the Ministry itself and the general public on mental health disorders and the benefits of treatment.
Manager of the Mental Health Programme, Trudy Harding-Rouse, said, "The Ministry of Health along with Vertical services (National Blood Services, Nutrition and Metabolic Services and the National Population Services) and the five regional health authorities randomly chose from a list of mental health disorders, one topic to be highlighted. Substance abuse, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, depression, bi-polar disorders and self-harm were the topics given.
The topic that was pulled was depression, which also happens to be the same topic that will be highlighted by the World Health Organisation, on October 10, through its campaign, "Depression: A Global Crisis".
"The competition was launched August 6 of this year. It was really geared to educate the staff at the Ministry of Health so we can better understand and treat these conditions when it presents itself before us. We know that depression is a significant contributor to the burden of global diseases that affects communities. Despite the known effectiveness of treatment, unfortunately many persons do not avail themselves to treatment. Many persons are not even aware of what depression is. It is a term we sometimes bandy about—I don't feel like going to work today nah, I depressed; I eh get pay, I depressed," Harding-Rouse said.
"We have six teams today each representing various departments within the Ministry. One of the requirements of competition was that they educate the population through drama on any one of the major health disorders in Trinidad and Tobago," she said.
For the staff members at the Ministry of Health, humour was the tool used to help bring across the importance of treating mental health diseases. Many had an opportunity to laugh until their sides hurt—courtesy their co-workers and master of ceremonies Learie Joseph.
The actors and actresses had no formal training in acting but saw it as an opportunity to help raise awareness on a disease many seem to take for granted.
Harding-Rouse said, "Today we want to focus on the Ministry of Health level along with the other services how best we can work together using the resources at our disposal to build increased resilience in individuals and society in order to reduce the burden of this disease and individuals suffering with depression," she said.
Topping the preliminary round; winning $3,000 and the opportunity to move on and compete in the finals against the other RHAs in October, the Chemistry/Food and Drugs Division with its skit titled If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the precipitate.
Second place and $2,000 went to fourth floor, Head Office, with a skit titled For Better or for Worse and third place went to the Terminal Benefits Section and they received $1,000.
Harding-Rouse said, "We have a People's Choice Award. The skits in the finals would be videotaped and put on YouTube and the person/group with the most votes will win the People's Choice Award."
"In Trinidad and Tobago, depression counts for about 30 per cent of mental disorders which are treatable in Trinidad and Tobago. There are a lot of community approaches that are being used and we are trying to strengthen that and reduce the risk factors associated with depression," she added.