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Dr's Appointment: Silent mental illness (Part 2): a mother's perspective

Published:Wednesday | April 13, 2016 | 12:00 AM
Yvonne McKenzie, mother of a child who suffers from bi-polar disorder


This week's Doctor's Appointment was a continuation of the discussion on silent mental illnesses featuring Drs Aggrey Irons and Geoffrey Walcott, consultant psychiatrists, along with Andrew Jackson, who struggles with bipolar disorder, and his mother, Yvonne McKenzie.

Below, Yvonne reflects on her interview, a courageous move, in light of the stigma associated with mental illnesses in Jamaica.

"The feedback on our participation on the Doctor's Appointment programme is rolling in. Some thought us brave; others are grateful for the insight. Some remain uncomfortable and unsure of the wisdom in exposure. I am particular proud of my son, Andrew, who risked the negative outcome to share his story. From my own perspective, this reality is part of who I am. There is no place for pretence or denial.

"Dr Irons, in the programme aired on Sunday, April 3, referred to this inherited disorder as a gift. I have learnt that this gift, though unwanted and unwelcome, must not be wasted. Alongside the 'gift' of bipolar disorder are the blessings of life. Now it is my family's turn to use this experience to help others who are on this journey. My son demonstrates that there is goodness, love, light, talent and 'giftedness' within a body affected by a chemical imbalance. Andrew is not unique. As a nation, we must seek to unearth these gifts encased in broken vessels rather than be disparaging and unkind."




As a parent, how do you cope with a child with a mental disorder?


Yvonne's response:

- It is critical to remember that this is an illness. To lose sight of this one fact is to react in unhelpful ways to both yourself and your child.

- Get to understand signs that indicate that an episode is near.

- Build and maintain a good relationship with your medical team (that includes showing respect, appreciation and paying the bills).

- Know the contact numbers for your nearest response personnel.

- Take care of yourself along the way. You may even need to get away from the situation at intervals. You need to stay healthy in order to provide care.

- Build a group of support persons who will help you and your child build healthy caring relationships.

- Quite often your child will not want to hear from you. find someone who he/she will listen to.

- Never give up trying.

- Cherish the incident free moments.

- Be thankful, be hopeful, pray for guidance and strength.




Most general hospitals and Type 5 clinics have mental-health centres. The University Hospital of the West Indies and the Kingston Public Hospital (Kingston and St Andrew) are both equipped to serve patients in need of mental-health care. There are also private services across the island led by competent psychiatrists in the parishes of Kingston, St Andrew, St Catherine, Clarendon, St James and St Ann.

Emergency services may be found in Kingston and St. Andrew by calling the mental-health straight line at 930-1152

In a crisis, you may also call police emergency, who have direct links with the mental-health team.

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