Remarks by Minister for Health and Social Development
Honourable Carvin Malone
Launch of Bounce Back Stronger
A Mental Health and Psychosocial Support Resilience Campaign
August 20, 10:00am
Good morning, fellow Virgin Islanders, residents and friends. As the Minister of Health and Social Development it is an honor for me to be here today to celebrate the successful collaboration between BVI and the Pan American Health Organization (or PAHO), with financing support from the Caribbean Development Bank.
As you will recall, in 2017, our beloved country was profoundly impacted by the effects of Hurricanes Irma and Maria. Lives were lost, and the destruction was severe and widespread. While we have united as a country to rebuild and recover from these disasters, the deeper scars we carry, which are not as visible as the physical damage, will take time and effort to heal. We all know the toll that traumatic experiences such as natural disasters, and now the COVID-19 pandemic, can take on our mental health, even though we are often reluctant to discuss it. Be that as it may, it is essential to our overall wellbeing and the wellbeing of our communities that we support each other, before, during and after a disaster. We are truly stronger together.
Our Government and PAHO signed an agreement in 2018 to implement a project to strengthen mental health and psychosocial support in disaster management and to build individual and community resilience in the British Virgin Islands. Among its many achievements to date, this project has resulted in the training and capacity building of hundreds of community members and health workers in vital skills such as psychological first aid, managing mental, neurological and substance use conditions in emergency settings, stress management, and community resilience. Additionally, the project developed a national campaign, entitled “Bounce Back Stronger,” aimed to help communities in BVI prepare for hurricanes. We are launching some of those products today.
With the unexpected arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, much has changed. Physical distancing measures to prevent the spread of the virus, including the closure of schools, workplaces, and travel restrictions, are impacting our way of life and how we connect with each other. As we face another hurricane season, it is easy for us to feel overwhelmed, anxious, and uncertain. The BVI-PAHO mental health and psychosocial support project has recognized the need to provide mental health and psychosocial support and build resilience in the country not only for natural disasters, as initially planned, but also to develop capacities to alleviate the mental health impacts of COVID-19. The project has developed and incorporated an adapted component specifically to address the mental health and psychosocial needs resulting from the pandemic. This component will include the training of diverse local stakeholders to support themselves and their communities in the face of any disaster we may face, be it a hurricane, COVID-19, or whatever may come. We will be ready.
In summary, I would like to congratulate all of our colleagues at the Ministries of Health and Social Development and Finance, the Health Services Authority, and the Department of Disaster Management, as well as our partners at the Pan American Health Organization, for their efforts and achievements as part of this important initiative as we work hard to ensure that BVI always bounces back stronger from adversity. We have faith in our people, and we encourage you to stay safe as we all work as hard as we could to fend off the negative impacts of COVID 19 and build resilience to the effects of hurricanes and other natural disasters.