Atlantic Caribbean Union

April 2019

ATCU Health Ministries Department Holds First Health Summit

ATCU Health Ministries Department Holds First Health Summit
By ATCU Communication Department
MH


For the most part, meaningful discussions on mental health are seldom held and often avoided largely because of the misconceptions surrounding the topic. Given the importance of mental health to the overall wellness of an individual, the Health Ministries Department of the Atlantic Caribbean Union of Seventh-day Adventists (ATCU), led by Annie K. Price, felt the need to focus on mental wellness and, therefore, conducted its first Mental Health Summit during April 1-3, 2019, at the union headquarters in Nassau, The Bahamas.

Dr. Carlos Fayard, associate professor of Psychiatry at Loma Linda University School of Medicine, addressed the role of church members and the clergy in providing support for those suffering from mental health issues. Dr. Fayard presented research data showing that a significant percentage of those who may be suffering from some form of mental health issue reach out to their pastor. This is noteworthy because it shows that the church plays a vital part in addressing mental health in communities. “They come to clergy because in many cases this is who they trust,” explained Dr. Fayard.

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Dr. Sean Knowles, a physician in the Department of Psychiatry at the Sandilands Rehabilitation Centre in The Bahamas, brought awareness to addiction. He shared information on its causes and ways to address it and stressed the need for support for those suffering from addiction.

“Addiction to gambling is something that has become very prevalent in our region,” said Dr. Knowles. “And what is most interesting about gambling addiction is that the addict almost never shows physical signs of addiction.” Dr. Knowles explained that one of the most important aspects of treating addiction is that the addict must recognize that he/she has a problem. He further pointed out that it is very difficult to reach out to someone suffering from addiction if he/she does not want to admit that he/she has a problem. “I often tell people that addiction is prison where the locks are on the inside,” Dr. Knowles stated.

Dr. Stacey King, clinical psychologist in the Bahamas, and Dr. Carolina Osorio, psychiatrist with specialty in geriatric psychiatry, addressed the complexities of suicide prevention. Dr. King emphasized that many persons have had interactions with persons with suicidal tendencies and did nothing to help because they were ignorant of the signs. She, therefore, identified some of the signs presented by suicidal persons and explained what to do should one suspect that a person is contemplating suicide.

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Dr. Osorio described how to relate to those who may have experienced mind-altering situations such as abuse and trauma and how to best assist them in getting the help that they need. Giving practical scenarios for the participants to analyze, Osorio shared treatment options that included things as simple as breathing to referral to a specialist. She also helped the attendees to identify agencies and facilities that can help persons with various mental health issues.

Belkis Archbold, health ministries director of the Inter-American Division of Seventh-day Adventists (IAD), emphasized the importance of following the Biblical laws of health in order to maintain good mental health. Good nutrition, exercise, drinking water, getting sunshine, having enough rest, and trusting in God are some of the laws of health promoted through the health initiative, “I Want to Live Healthy,” spearheaded by the Health Ministries Department of the IAD.

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Archbold expressed excitement over the success of the summit, including the fact that the Pan American Health Organization’s Health Systems and Services advisor, Dr. Gustavo Mery, participated and presented in training sessions. “I am leaving with the hope that everything that we learnt in these few days will be used for the betterment of the church and the communities,” said Archbold.

The summit was attended by Health Ministries leaders and pastors from the Cayman Islands Conference, the North Bahamas Conference, the South Bahamas Conference, and the Turks and Caicos Islands Conference both physically at union headquarters and via live online video conferencing.

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Participants expressed great appreciation to Annie K. Price, ATCU Health Ministries director, and her team for planning the event. “I believe that God orchestrated that the summit would be at this specific time to prepare us to help persons in our church and community,” stated Pastor Edward St. Fleur from the South Bahamas Conference.

Annie K. Price and the conference Health Ministries directors will continue to collaborate to provide support and training for their respective conferences as they seek to help persons with mental health issues.

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