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Published On: Sun, Sep 20th, 2020

Mental Health Foundation in turmoil

CAY HILL — Amidst a growing need for a national mental health response during the coronavirus outbreak, interim-director Eileen Healy of the Mental Health Foundation (MHF) has submitted her resignation effective September 30. Against the wishes of the staff, the Board of MHF has offered dr. Kitty Pelswijk the position as interim-director.

In a letter dated June 1st, 2020, the caregivers at Mental Health Foundation terminated their trust in both interim-director Eileen Healy and her intended replacement dr. Pelswijk for creating ‘a culture of fear’.

Concerned staff speaks of ‘structural long-lasting mistreatment and abuse of power against employees of the MHF’ and asks the president of the board, dr. Felix Holiday, not to appoint dr. Pelswijk as interim-director.

The Mental Health Foundation employs more than thirty caregivers, including four psychologists, three psychiatrists, two clinic nurses, four case managers, one information and prevention coordinator, two social workers and one occupational therapist.

Dr. Holiday ignored their request and announced in a letter to the staff, dated September 17, that dr. Pelswijk had been offered the position as interim-director and that she has accepted.

The Surinam born dr. Pelswijk studied medicine at the Anton de Kom University in Paramaribo and started working as a psychiatrist at Psychiatrisch Centrum Suriname in October 2017. She has no experience as a director and does not have management training. The staff had asked the board to appoint mr. Jimmy Challenger as interim-director.

The implications of COVID-19 for mental health are very serious. Before the pandemic, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that mental disorders affect one in four people. Due to COVID-19 and the resulting economic recession the mental health of one in two adults has been negatively impacted, according to research in the United States.

Also in St. Maarten, the pandemic has created new barriers for people already suffering from mental illness. We at StMaartenews.com will investigate the lack of commitment to support a national mental health and wellbeing pandemic response plan.

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Related links:
Concern Letter Staff to the Board
Announcement New Interim Director Oct 1 2020
Interim Director responds to publication about MHF turmoil
Medical recognition divisive issue at Mental Health Foundation



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