Scores of people walked together in silence yesterday in a bid to raise awareness for mental health in Gibraltar.
The event organised by the Gibraltar Mental Welfare Society saw people walk in a solemn procession from the Piazza to No.6 Convent Place.
Outside No.6 Convent Place the Society gave a letter outlining concerns to the Minister for Education Dr John Cortes, who is stepping as Acting Chief Minister while Mr Picardo continues Brexit talks in London.
Signs bearing slogans reading ‘wake up to early diagnosis and treatment’, ‘mental and physical health go hand in hand’ and ‘more investment in mental health care’ were waved as the crowd walked up Main Street.
“Although I no longer have direct responsibility for health, I have had it in the past and you know how strongly I feel about developing mental health services,” Dr Cortes told the crowds outside No6 Convent.
“Already I think people are listening, some announcements have been made about changes that are coming and I will be sharing what ideas I have for developing this in education. It is extremely important to be able to provide the right resources particularly for young people within and outside the schools.”
“You are pushing at an open door as far as I am concerned, you have my full support and I am really grateful that you have taken your time to come support this walk.”
Conchita Triay and Mark Montovio from the Gibraltar Mental Welfare Society joined Dr Cortes inside No6 Convent Place to relay the Society’s issues listed in their letter.
“We are giving the message to the Government that mental health has to be invested in much more seriously, we can’t have people waiting when in serious acute condition waiting for three months for an appointment,” Ms Triay said.
“People need support, they might not need just one visit to the doctor, they might need several and if it isn’t done anywhere else in the world either because everywhere underinvests well we’re an affluent society that needs to put its money where its mouth is and start to invest properly.”
Organisations supporting the initiative included Clubhouse, the Psychological Support Group and the GGCA. Also joining the walk were Opposition members Lawrence Llamas and Edwin Reyes.
Ms Triay told the Chronicle she had a positive meeting with Dr Cortes and she hoped the walk was “very meaningful” to those who have encountered issues with mental health.
“This marks the start of a more sustained campaign to get better mental health services in Gibraltar,” Ms Triay said.
“It is always very positive talking to Dr Cortes, he is genuinely concerned about the situation. He seemed very interested in what we had to say about mental health needs and the provision we would like to see in place.”
Mrs Triay also discussed the need for councillors in schools and training for teachers to detect problems as well as a structure where young people can seek help with Dr Cortes.
Other issues discussed were for further therapeutic support in Ocean Views Mental Health Facility.
“People are well taken care of in Ocean Views by the nurses but there is no staff, no psychologists, no therapy, the visits from the psychiatrists are few and far between.!
The Society are also pushing for further mental health support in prisons and support out in the community.