ISSUES of mental illness don’t usually take center stage, unless, some traumatic/tragic incident befalls a mentally-ill person. The seemingly apathy in the society towards individuals and institutions providing care to the mentally-ill is also widespread.
But on Saturday, November 26, staff of the St. Lucia National Mental Wellness Centre, the Police Force, alongside professional models strutted elegantly down the catwalk at Sandals Grande in a fundraising effort towards the cause of mental illness.
Executive Director of Mental Health Services, Charmaine Hippolyte-Thomas, was ecstatic that this year’s ‘Strut for a Cause’ event organized by Valerie Albert-Fevriere and Dahlia Francois focused on mental health. She said the Ministry of Health via the Mental Wellness Centre is committed to combating stigma and discrimination towards the mentally-ill.
“(This) activity is an excellent indication that persons do understand the concerns of mental health. Voluntary groups and concerned citizens have gathered here to support the ‘Strut for a Cause’ project which is aimed at supporting the newly-opened psychiatric unit for children and adolescents at the wellness centre,” Hippolyte-Thomas said.
Police Commissioner Severin Moncherry, who also did some strutting of his own, stated that it was quite timely for the police to be part of this activity, particularly as it fell within the celebration of Police Week under the theme, ” The community and the police: a partnership in action.”
“Last year, because we realized that people who were mentally-ill were getting injured and some of them losing their lives at the hands of the police, we decided t introduce a policy document guiding the police officers on how to handle people with mental illness. So it is fitting that the police were invited to join this cause,” Moncherry said.
Is has become customary for the Minister for Health to make a fashion statement at this event and deliver a brief address to the audience. Senator Mary Isaac did not disappoint as she strutted in the colours representing mental illness adorned in an outfit by Lisa Barton-Volney. The minister also challenged the audience to get active by highlighting and addressing issues of mental illness in St. Lucia.
“I know that you understand that mental illness is not a decision, it is not a choice, it is a disorder. It is an illness and it ought to be treated like every other illness, whether it is the flu, the cold or anything else. It’s just another illness. So I ask one thing of you: to remember next time you see a mentally-ill person, just remember, tomorrow it may well be you.”
‘Strut for a Cause’ also provided new budding fashion designers and models a platform to display their talents whilst contributing to various health-related causes.