New Health Ministry headquarters to focus on wellness

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Terrence Deyalsingh –

Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh wants to open up his ministry’s new Queen’s Park Savannah headquarters to the public and turn it into a space that promotes wellness.

Deyalsingh made the assertion at the launch of the ministry’s first wellness event last Friday, called OASIS: Art as Therapy.

“This is the first in many events where we are going to open up the ministry to the public. That is my dream for this building.”

He said the ministry would be transformed into a place of wellness, focusing first on its staff through a wellness programme.

He said the initiative was born out of interactions he had with staff while having lunch with them in the breakroom.

“We are going to introduce and infuse wellness into everything that we do from now on,” he said.

He said the ministry also hoped to partner with the Indian High Commission “on a journey of yoga.”

He added that the building would also be made available to other government agencies for events like the permanent secretaries’ meeting held there last Thursday.

The OASIS exhibition was aimed at increasing awareness of mental-health and mental-health-related diseases by encouraging the destigmatisation of those who suffer from mental-health challenges or conditions. There were over 100 art pieces on display at the new headquarters between Friday and Saturday, many of which were created by people with mental-health conditions.

Ministry of Health director of Mental Health Dr Hazel Othello said art as therapy had been around for centuries.

She said it was commonly used in the Roman Empire and ancient Greece, where participation in theatre productions was prescribed as treatment for conditions like depression and anxiety.

“Art therapy now provides an avenue through which thoughts and feelings that are difficult to mobilise can be communicated, creating a safe space among many other benefits.”

Othello said dance, music, poetry, expressive writing and drama were all forms of creative-arts therapy.

“The benefits of these interventions have been reported in a wide range of mental-health disorders including depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, autism and dementia.

“In one six-month study, caregivers of persons with long-term illnesses experienced decreased anxiety and increased positive emotions after regular participation in creative activities. Reduced need for sleep medication and reduced length of hospital stays have also been reported benefits of art therapy.”

She said such therapy was also particularly beneficial to children and adolescents.

Othello said creative-arts therapies were a new addition to the local mental-health treatment landscape, with music and art therapy now being essential components of treatment.