Today, 18th June, the OASI Foundation together with the Naxxar Local Council organized a National Conference under the Distinct Patronage of H.E. Dr. George Vella, President of Malta, with the title Drugs...and Mental Health? Reality, Health and Prevention. The conference was held at Villa Arrigo and was moderated by Mr. Clifford Galea.
Hon. Dr. Michael Falzon, Minister for the Family and Social Solidarity, emphasized how important it is that all service providers in the social field work together to achieve their common goals. He stated that the involvement of the Presidency is proof of the importance of the subject in question and the Government's commitment in tackling these issues.
Ms. Anne Marie Muscat Fenech Adami, Mayor of Naxxar, said the local council looks forward to this annual conference and commits to their continuous support of OASI and its message.
Mr. Manuel Gellel, on behalf of the National Focal Point on Drugs and Drug Addiction, Ms. Sharon Arpa, representing Sedqa, Dr. Anton Grech, Psychiatrist and Chairperson of Mental Health Services, and Prof. Richard Muscat, Director of the Centre for Molecular Medicine and Biobanking, discussed present statistics, the connection between drug use disorders and mental health disorders, and gave their recommendations on how the current situation can be improved.
Mr. Noel Xerri, Chief Executive of OASI, emphasised that everyone has a duty to contribute so that together we can tackle the problem of drug use. He stated that whoever believes that drug use causes harm to society is a contributor and collaborator. He also mentioned that the law needs to give clear direction on these matters, and needs to be based on scientific evidence.
H.E. Dr. George Vella, President of Malta closed the conference by saying that we cannot forget that when we are mentioning statistics, we are talking about actual people, many of whom are doing their best to deal with their problems. He also mentioned that we need to reduce the stigma related to mental health and drug use disorders and certain labelling should be eliminated. Finally, he closed his speech by addressing the issue of cannabis stating that we need to learn from experts and other countries and that as a medical doctor and a father he doesn’t believe that recreational cannabis should be legalised and its use should be limited only to medical one.
The audience was an active participant in the National Conference, and included representatives from diverse fields, including government agencies, non-governmental organizations, educators, persons working with youths and students.