Mental and sexual health will no longer take a back seat because of the pandemic according to Deputy Prime Minister Chris Fearne, who confirmed that plans to prioritise both are in the works for the coming months.
Asked by Lovin Malta, Fearne said that the implementation of Malta’s mental health strategy, which was approved just before the pandemic, is well underway. It includes reforms to the neglected mental health hospital Mount Carmel and moving services out of Mater Dei and into community clinics.
“These are turbulent and uncertain times that leave a real impact on everyone’s mental health. Therefore, next year, after the pandemic, we will see more investments, infrastructure in Mount Carmel and beyond, as well as a boost in human resources,” he said.
This newsroom also asked about the islands’ decade-old sexual health policy, which the minister promised was see a fresh draft in March 2021.
“In terms of updated the sexual health policy, works are still ongoing. We aim to have it ready by summer for public consultation,” he added.
Mental and sexual health are major sore points in Malta.
Malta’s Mental Health Commissioner previously told Lovin Malta that the true effects of the pandemic are still unravelling, with considerably more people suffering from depression, low moods and tiredness over the last year.
Still, the island’s mental health hospital has repeatedly come under fire for shocking practices, while doctors have warned that the current strategy is far from enough to be called a holistic exit plan for COVID-19.
Meanwhile, the national sexual health policy hasn’t been updated in over a decade.
In fact, Mater Dei’s GU clinic, which provides the only government-sponsored way to test for sexual diseases, is under-staffed and under-resourced, with a handful of staff catering for a population of 400,000, despite ministerial pledges to double its headcount last year.
To add to the injury, just 2% of the population are getting tested for sexual health diseases each year, while STDS are on the rise and no form of contraception is free on the island. All this and more could be addressed in a fresh policy.
What do you think of the Health Minister’s pledges?