The U.S. Virgin Islands is an incorporated and organized territory of the United States located in the Caribbean. The region can be characterized by an undeveloped mental health system, which demands attention from medical organizations and local authorities. The present proposal focuses on the drawbacks of psychiatric care within the region and ways to ensure the mental well-being of the local population. Through the analysis of literary sources and a short review of the existing psychiatric facilities and programs, the paper evaluates areas of growth and necessary improvements. The theoretical research confirms that the healthcare system of the islands is unable to provide accessible and organized medical services. As a result, preventative measures, the development of existing facilities, creating new institutions, and increasing the accessibility of the services are needed to improve this sphere of healthcare.
Today, mental health services in the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) do not receive the necessary attention, and psychiatric problems among citizens remain due to social, economic, and other factors. This proposal aims to analyze how to improve psychiatric healthcare in this region. This research is especially significant for the USVI because there is not enough information about the quality of their mental health services, and the islands lack an organized system of psychiatric facilities. Therefore, the research questions are what areas of mental healthcare require attention and what can be done to ensure the mental well-being of the population. It can be suggested that preventative measures, the development of medical institutions, and focusing on specific needs of patients are essential to treat mental health conditions and mitigate their risks. The objectives of the plan include identifying current mental healthcare problems and necessary actions. Through the analysis of reliable literature and credible region-specific information, the paper discusses the main aspects of the problem and the ways to solve it.
First, it is important to analyze the general principles of mental health services and their presence in the USVI. Understanding the constituents of the mental healthcare system and its challenges will help evaluate what aspects demand special attention. Scheid and Wright (2017) suggest that access to mental healthcare may positively influence the quality and length of life. In their study, they consider the possible barriers connected with the psychiatric healthcare provision. According to the researchers, care providers should pay attention to social, cultural, and psychological sources of stress (Scheid & Wright, 2017). For example, low income and poverty are widespread stressors for patients from disadvantaged areas. Other barriers include the level of stigma and biases: for instance, African American patients and LGBT members are likely to experience uncertainty in consulting with medical specialists.
In order to design a comprehensive and logical development plan, it may be important to understand the structure of the mental health system. According to Segal et al. (2018), mental healthcare services in the U.S. are divided into the public and private sectors. The corresponding institutions include outpatient or community mental health facilities, psychiatric hospitals, and residential treatment centers. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration is considered an important authority within the analyzed field. It regularly observes health services in the U.S. and surveys different mental health facilities (Segal et al., 2018). Therefore, in order to define the flaws of this system within the islands, it would be appropriate to consult with the findings of this department.
The studies provided above demonstrate the general principles of mental health services and the structure of this part of the healthcare system. However, in order to develop these facilities within a specific territory, it is important to identify the peculiarities of the region. There are certain healthcare institutions in the USVI, for example, two outpatient clinics in St. Croix and St. Thomas (Holosko, 2017). At the same time, due to the Islands’ size, diverse population, economic factors, and distance from other regions, it is essential to improve these institutions and create new mental health facilities. Besides, the risk of mental health conditions among the adult population in the islands is rather high as they are developing rapidly. Substance abuse, stress, and depression are only some of the mental health issues present in the Caribbean (Holosko, 2017). Therefore, further in this paper, possible improvements are discussed in detail.
The theoretical analysis helps identify the following areas of growth in the sphere of mental health services in the USVI. First, in order to minimize the demand for such facilities, it is necessary to promote preventive practices in the islands. Second, given the size and the population of the islands, it would be appropriate to collaborate with the surrounding regions, such as Puerto Rico. The most significant problem to solve is the lack of mental health services in the region. Therefore, it is necessary to create new facilities, such as hospitals and clinics, and develop institutions that already exist. Since the proposal is designed for the USVI adult treatment facility, the plan is focused on male and female individuals at the age of 21 and older.
Mental health preventive measures may include launching programs aimed at improving the psychiatric well-being of USVI citizens and mitigating related risks. Smith et al. (2016) suggest using the mindfulness (self-awareness) technique that has proved to be rather popular and effective in contemporary psychology. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction is a group practice that includes relaxation techniques and self-awareness exercises (Smith et al., 2016). By reducing the risks of anxiety and depression, this program would decrease the demand for mental care.
The second proposal is connected with establishing additional healthcare facilities and collaborating with mental health services in the nearby regions. For example, since Puerto Rico is located close to the USVI, it would be effective to open an affiliate of the Puerto-Rican VA Medical Care Center in the islands. Other measures include evaluating the standards of mental healthcare services in the USVI public and private institutions. Besides, in order to obtain enough information about the needs of patients, it would be useful to study the most common mental conditions within the region and focus on their treatment. Mild conditions, such as stress and anxiety, have already been discussed above. Among severe diseases, Holosko (2017) names schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression with psychotic features, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Therefore, special attention should be paid to the prevention and treatment of these conditions and the corresponding training of medical personnel.
Finally, it is important to consider the social aspect of the issue. As it was mentioned earlier in this proposal, some patients may suffer from self-stigma (for example, embarrassment) and public stigma (the fear of public judgment) (Scheid & Wright, 2017). Therefore, proper mental health services should be free of bias and discrimination. It is important to underline the role of the local authorities. Together with medical institutions, they need to formulate mental health policy, emphasizing its availability for everyone and privacy-related regulations.
The results of the mental health services development will be analyzed through qualitative and quantitative data. Qualitative data will include comparing the overall mental well-being of the USVI population before and after the proposed changes. It will be necessary to collect reports from different mental health facilities about the quality of their services, the number of patients treated and discharged, and their diagnoses. Quantitative data will include statistics of the governmental bodies and medical institutions. Since the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration is responsible for collecting information about the quality of mental health services, the surveys and research by this department would help assess the measures’ effectiveness.
The possible challenges and limitations of the present proposal may be connected with differences in participants’ mental conditions and age. Since the present plan focuses on the adult population, the participants’ age gap may be rather significant, starting from young adults and ending with seniors. Consequently, mental diseases in people of different ages may vary significantly, and categorization by age and diagnosis is necessary to evaluate improvements. It is expected that the implementation of the measures mentioned in this section would help improve the overall level of mental well-being in the USVI. Moreover, the creation of new medical institutions and mental health policy development would make psychiatric services easy and available to everyone.
The present proposal demonstrates the ways to improve the mental health system of the U.S. Virgin Islands. Due to the specific social, economic, and political situation in the islands, their rapid development, and existing stressors, the occurrence of mental health conditions in the region is rather high. Therefore, it is necessary to mitigate possible risks through preventative measures and eliminate stigma and discrimination. Moreover, collaboration with neighboring regions, establishing new medical institutions, and studying particular mental conditions would greatly contribute to this sphere of healthcare.
Holosko, M.J. (2017). Social work case management: Case studies from the frontlines. SAGE Publications.
Scheid, T.L., & Wright, E.R. (Eds.). (2017). A handbook for the study of mental health: Social contexts, theories, and systems (3rd ed.). Cambridge University Press.
Segal, A.F., Winfree, L.T., & Friedman, S. (2018). Mental health and criminal justice. Wolters Kluwer Law & Business.
Smith, L., Fullerton-Cooper, S., & Gordon, E. (2016). The Caribbean in a changing world: Surveying the past, mapping the future (Vol. 1). Cambridge Scholars Publishing.