CONCERNS have surfaced following recent comments made by Health Minister Dr Neil Sharma in reference to people living with disabilities.
In a joint statement issued by the Youth Champs 4 Mental Health (YC4MH), Psychiatric Survivors Association (PSA) and Lifeline Fiji, the organisations noted their disappointment towards Dr Sharma, who allegedly referred to people with disabilities as "mad".
"Recently in his public interview on radio, Dr Neil Sharma used the word 'mad' and made light of the issues surrounding mental illness," the statement said.
"His words and actions depicted those of a stereotype and fuelled stigmatisation of people living with this illness."
The statement went on to explain that despite years of efforts put in by advocates of people with disabilities, the minister's comments simply tore down such efforts.
"We have advocated for systems of care and the decentralisation of mental health institutions around the country in order to break the stereotypical thinking of stagnant mind-sets.
"This is saddening as he would be the main person the public would expect to make positive remarks and progressive changes."
The organisations have requested that the minister make a public apology for his words and attempt to "rectify his statement".
Health Ministry spokesman Shalvin Deo confirmed to this newspaper that all statements explaining the minister's remarks had been passed to the Information Ministry for approval and dissemination.
"Everything — our statements have all been given to the Ministry of Information," Mr Deo said.