Wed | Mar 20, 2019

Editorial | Mental health: a village at a time

Published:Saturday | December 15, 2018 | 12:44 AM

The name Kimone Rose may not mean anything to most of our readers. Yet we have elected to highlight the initiative of this 25-year-old woman who is on a mission to tackle mental-health issues starting in two rural communities of Clarendon.

Ultimately, she hopes through her United Communities Association (UCA), to reach beyond Clarendon and have a national impact. She acknowledges that though there is a national campaign to destigmatise mental illness, it has not really touched many rural communities.

Miss Rose, the 2018 Festival Queen for the parish, has her own personal story of going through mental illness and she wants to help others become healthy. She is a brave woman because there is such a stigma attached to mental illness, and persons who require intervention may hold back in order not to appear weak, or worse, risk being ridiculed by their colleagues and friends. Fear is another emotion with which persons with mental disorders have to cope.

In giving details of the project, due to be launched in January in Kellits and Crofts Hill, Miss Rose has identified the need to foster a healthy and safe environment for discussion about mental health and to promote self-care, life skills and help-seeking behaviours.

Current statistics indicate that three to four in 10 Jamaicans are afflicted with some kind of psychotic or mental disorder, although the specific diagnosis will vary from person to person. It is predicted that several factors, including economic, social and environmental, will combine to create a greater crisis of mental illness among Jamaicans in the years ahead. Some experts have predicted a doubling of cases in the next decade.

If that prediction is true, the health ministry and mental-care officers need to argue robustly for much more resources to effectively deal with that expected surge. With the scaling down of the island’s largest psychiatric facilities, the Bellevue Hospital, the first and obvious demand is for an increase in the community mental-health care personnel who must be mobile and fully equipped to deal with psychiatric emergencies, especially in rural areas. The many potential uses of mobile technology should also be embraced to advance education and respond in emergencies.

Recent violent incidents in many of our rural schools have been analysed by experts. They believe that many of the challenges faced by adolescents in our school system involve mental issues which, if left untreated, have the potential to lead to violence and even drug abuse as a coping mechanism. And in the wider society, there are now almost daily reports of tragedy involving persons who are deemed to have been struggling with mental illness.

In all of this, however, the stigma of mental health does one thing: it drives the affected person into dark and lonely places instead of allowing them to seek treatment in order to get better and live productive lives. For these and other reasons, we hope Ms Rose’s inspirational leadership will successfully reach as many persons as possible and help erase that stigma.

One of the things which will contribute to its success is the ability to help cue families and work colleagues to the warning signs of mental illness in their loved ones and the motivation to seek intervention.

If these noble objectives are achieved, Kimone Rose will become a household name and may even be celebrated as an ode to inspired leadership.