SINT MAARTEN (CAY HILL) – The Mental Health Foundation (MHF) on Tuesday sent out a statement as a reaction to the Dean of the St. Maarten Bar Association attorney-at-law G. Hatzmann. The MHF says, “…the well-intended publication of Mr Hatzmann, highlighted on the front page of the Daily Herald of last Saturday.”
The statement continues as follows: “Under the heading ‘Silent Marches’, Mr Hatzmann established that many psychological disturbed are extremely dangerous and that there are ‘dozens’ of these potentially life-threatening persons walking around on St. Maarten. Furthermore, he paints the picture that after serving a sentence, prisoners with a psychiatric background return to society without any noteworthy treatment. These are the arguments which form the base for his plead for a psychiatric detention facility on St. Maarten.
“The Mental Health Foundation recognizes the need for rehabilitation after detention. Therefore, we applaud this initiative and are very willing to work together to improve psychiatric care on St. Maarten.
“However, such a collaboration would be more efficient, if feedback would have been requested from the institutions responsible for psychiatric care on St. Maarten, which wasn’t the case. For this reason, the Mental Health Foundation is reacting to this article to rectify certain arguments and provide the nuance that a difficult topic of mental health requires.
“Mr Hatzmann as a lawyer and dean of the Bar Association with 12 years’ experience, please refer to the existing laws on St. Maarten.
Facts and Stigma on Mental Health
“MHF presently has 1000 patients in its care of which the vast majority has a job and contributes to our society. Claiming that ‘’ there are dozens of severely mentally ill people out there walking around freely and are potentially life-threatening’’ is not supported by any tangible figures and will only increase the stigma, which does not help our cause.
One in every four people will be affected by a mental or neurological disorder (either big or small) at some point in their lives according to the WHO. Putting a label of ‘’unstable, violent & permanence ‘’ on the people (that had to courage to deal with their issues) is possibly the most destructive thing you can do as a society as it increases the stigma.
“This makes it harder for people to look for help because they are afraid of social judgment. This is a slippery slope that we should try to avoid by all means, and that is why we recommend a person-centered approach where resilience and human strength as starting point.
Psychiatric Care on St. Maarten
“MHF has from the onset of its existence in 2006 been working closely with the Public Prosecutor (OM), Police, the Prison, SJIB (probation), the Ministries of Health, Social Affairs and Labor, Justice and Turning Point, as well as many others. A few years ago there was a prosecutor who suggested St. Maarten needed a forensic psychiatrist and she could organize it.
“Her well-intended intentions never materialized because the reality is that there are not ‘dozens of dangerous psychiatric patients’ on St. Maarten. A forensic psychiatrist cost around half a million guilders per year for approximately ten persons of whom most problems have been solved locally or are still in the process of being solved. It is a complicated process that can only be solved if all involved parties (health, legal, government etc.) work together.
What needs to be done?
“We will not contend that on St. Maarten the psychiatric care is perfect, but we are getting there. Regardless, much has been accomplished in a short period of 12 years, prior to not having anything on St. Maarten.
“The best approach to improve psychiatric care would be to look at the bigger picture here and together, find out where we can make the most constructive and efficient improvements, rather than to build cases around incidents that happen, as is shown by the example that Mr Hatzmann refers to in his article: where a psychiatric prisoner on leave recently killed a woman in the Netherlands. A country with all so-called facilities available to prevent incidents, and it still happened!
“To the Dean of the Bar Association, we recommend bringing parties together with the objective of solving problems. Providing a one-sided story without requesting any feedback from us, based on one specific case and personal experiences have an adverse effect on problem-solving.
“MHF is there to solve complex psychiatric problems, and we could use professional assistance without downgrading of the work being done. We want to take this opportunity to invite the members of the Bar Association to visit the MHF facility to get a better understanding of the situation.
“Meet the team and understand the enormous challenges they are facing on a daily basis without complaining, and together we can work on a structural solution to this problem,” the MHF statement concludes.