With the spotlight on mental health awareness this month, Mental Health Foundation (MHF) Director Pyt Lucas gives us insight into his world in this week’s Hot Seat.
Who is Pieter Lucas?
My name is sometimes confusing. It is written Pyt or Piet or Pieter or Pete. Usually, I am addressed by my fist name. I sometimes wonder if people know my last name! I am 57 years young, married to Judy. I have five children between the ages of 21 and 10 and am the director of Mental Health Foundation.
How would you describe yourself?
I’m easy-going. I like to analyse before I make a move. I’m quite determined in what needs to be done. I’m hardworking, social and I love to establish necessary changes. I like to see progress and results based on needs and developments.
How did you end up in St. Maarten?
I was born in the Netherland, Rotterdam; the city of the no-nonsense workers they say. I have lived in Rotterdam, Nijmegen, Eindhoven, Roosendaal, Maastricht and Den Haag. While on our honeymoon, my former wife and I decided to make a move to St. Maarten on the conditions that we would find work. We did. So we packed our stuff and moved to stay. That was 18 years ago.
I studied Health Care Science, specializing in policy and management at the University of Maastricht, and earned the Drs. title. I also did a post-academic study on management of change and earned a Master’s degree and later followed an educational course that allows me to give classes on a Bachelor’s level.
In 1997, I established For a Change NV, which focuses on change management. I’ve been working for government entities, educational institutions and healthcare institutions ever since. Before that, I worked in the Netherland as a management consultant in different sectors: Healthcare, education, broadcasting, government and private.
How did you come to secure the director’s post at MHF?
At the request of government in 2005, I made a business plan for MHF. That was a very challenging job, because we did not have any mental health care institutions or experience on the island. It was hard to get data and determine the needs of a still-growing population. After that, I moved on and was quite pleased to see that the organisation started to be developed under the guidance of Ms. Eileen Healy in accordance with the business plan. When she went on pension, I thought about the position and realised that it would also be nice to take over the helm of the foundation. I’m very happy with that choice. I started on January 1 on a three-year contract, with the option to extend.
What inspired you to take on the challenge?
Having worked as a consultant in St. Maarten, I got a clear picture of the healthcare sector. I felt that I would be able to move the foundation to a next level, by opening it up and initiating further developments. I want to establish an open organisation that realises that it is part of several networks, with different needs and target groups, such as youth-, elderly- and forensic-care and prevention. By networking, I try to open the door for sustainable cooperation with relevant institutions and organisations in the benefit of our clients/patients. We were already able to establish sustainable relationships with our most important stakeholders and we will continue with others.
Top priorities for MHF?
The seven things I would like to establish are a care product for mental health care for children and youth; a care product for forensic psychiatry; diminish the stigma and discrimination and do more in prevention; tariffs that can cover our operational costs for the years to come; a state of the art new facility together with the social workplace; further professionalize our staff and continue seeking structural cooperation with our stakeholders. There’s more on the wish list, but this gives you a window of our efforts.
How can mental health care be improved?
We have to diminish stigma. We’re on the right track, but we can do more. We have to listen well to our clients and realise that mental health is not only about psychiatric care, but also about wellness in general: being employed, having housing, having a social environment and alike. Everybody has the right to live a life! We also need dedicated and professional employees. Continuous training and education is much needed; both using internal resources and external resources. We also need to be in continuous contact with all our stakeholders; listen to our clients’ needs, stay in line with policies and new developments and be pro-active.
Message for mental health patients?
Don’t be afraid. Share your feelings with persons close to you. Try to gather information on the internet. Visit your general practitioner and talk about your situation. Contact MHF. Try to comply with your treatment plan and, most of all, try to remain in charge of your own life!
Message for the community?
Persons with a mental challenge are just like you and me. Treat them as you want to be treated yourself, with respect and dignity. Support them to be able to live a meaningful life; they also want to function like all of us by working, having a family and going to church.
What else keeps you ticking?
The function gets me involved in all kind of situations, entities, problems and discussions; there is hardly time left. Where I can, I try to help out other organizations and individuals and share my experiences. Management of change is not only my education and work, but has also become my hobby.
Being at home and in my garden with my loving wife and kids; music, reading and good conversation! I follow politics, but do not participate.
What’s your favourite type of music – what artistes do you listen to?
I love music. I like classic like Beethoven, but also hard rock, R&B, flamingo or bachata (Aventura). Most of the times, it depends on my mood. I always listen to the radio in my car and surprise my kids by knowing temporary music and songs. At times, I ask them to really listen to the lyrics to realise that some texts are ridiculous at the least.
If you could ask any three persons (dead or alive) to a dinner party, who would they be and what would you cook for them?
I’d invite Salvador Dali (a Spanish painter), the Dalai Lama (spiritual leader) and Aaliyah (R&B/Hip Hop). I think I would make an assortment of self-made finger foods, tapas and Thai dishes.