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Former patient says mental health services are in ‘crisis’

Tania Stafford (Photograph by Two & Quarter)

A former patient has written an open letter to the Premier, David Burt, saying mental health services in Bermuda are in crisis.

Tania Stafford, who received treatment for mental illness at the Mid-Atlantic Wellness Institute, has also sent the letter to Kim Wilson, the Minister of Health, and members of Cabinet.

In the letter, which she also shared with The Royal Gazette, Ms Stafford wrote: “Mental health, mental illness and mental wellness. Three interconnected terms. All in crisis in Bermuda.

“Mental wellness is the stepchild of healthcare in Bermuda and has been for my entire life. I plead to you to commit to taking mental health seriously and commit to take concrete steps to battle the stigma that surrounds mental illness thereby improving mental wellness for the entire Bermuda community.”

Ms Stafford also shared the story of her mother Ivy Stafford, who also suffered from mental illness and made a failed attempt at her life.

“The medications she was given were blunt and deadened her soul … My mother walked off the Adams Ward at St Brendan’s [now MWI], in a heavily medicated state, into the welcoming waters at Devonshire Bay. David Saul and Cathy Saints Sousa tried to save her …. however, that was the task of the mental health system and that system FAILED.

“Having survived the trauma of the near death of my mother and seeing my father’s mental health ruined as he took the decision to remove her life support I determined that my mental wellness would be a beacon lighting the way for others.”

Ms Stafford, who no longer lives in Bermuda, said that she developed mental health problems and received outpatient care before being admitted to MWI in 2010.

She said: “The staff are tired, under appreciated and mistakes are made.”

She added that she had recently requested a report about her treatment but received a report detailing her mother’s condition.

She said in the letter: “ I could be outraged, fortunately I have control of my own mental wellness sufficiently to see this is a reflection of the overall state of mental healthcare in Bermuda, not a personal sleight. But for many, such an error would result in a very negative outcome.”

The letter added: “PLEASE use the experiences of Ivy and Tania Stafford to realise that the mental health system in Bermuda is NOT FIT FOR PURPOSE. Invest in the facilities, training and overall welfare of the staff, and implement innovation in healthcare at MWI.

“MOVE Bermuda’s mental health facility from an ASYLUM to a WELLNESS INSTITUTION – I guarantee that in doing so YOU will save lives.“

Government was unable to comment last night.

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Published July 12, 2021 at 7:53 am (Updated July 12, 2021 at 6:41 am)

Former patient says mental health services are in ‘crisis’

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