'Reject unhealthy cultural norms'
Women have been urged to reject cultural practices where they are expected to be hit as a sign of love or for their spouses to prove their manliness by boasting to friends what they have done.
The view was one of several presented at a recent Gleaner Editors' Forum examining intimate partner homicide-suicide rates, based on a study conducted by Dr Audrey M Pottinger, senior lecturer and consultant clinical psychologist at the University of the West Indies, Mona.
"I take it from the mental health perspective because we do not have persons readily accessing or having mental health services readily available. That is something we need to look at. We need to see how we can make mental health services more available and more accessible to the public," Pottinger said.
Pottinger, who was the lead researcher in the study, said that the way mental health issues are treated by the society prevents many from seeking help.
"We also need to see how we can destigmatise it. I don't think we realise to what extent mental health practices are part of our daily lives or how to help. We can make it part of our daily lives our problem solving, decision making, choice of relationship. All of these are mental health practices," she told the forum.
Dr Althea Bailey, lecturer in the Department of Community Health and Psychiatry, UWI, who worked along with the researchers, said that intimate partner violence can be tackled from a cultural-norm perspective.
"We have to find ways in which our educational and public health systems can talk about cultural norms that are unhealthy," she told the forum.
According to her, expectations of jealousy and of being hit must be discussed, but persons must recognise how to see and manage danger and must know when to run.
"This is not about romance or obsessive love. This is unhealthy. If I think I am of a victim persona, that it's OK for me to always be oppressed, or whatever, and that I need help, I can go and seek help. And also the person who thinks that I am too obsessive can go and seek help," she said.
Political scientist Nadeen Spence said that cultural changes were critical to solutions and blamed the Government for dragging its feet on discussions and actions to end gender-based violence.
"There is a lack of will, I believe, on the part of our Government to interfere in a matter that I think is of critical societal importance. And it's not just for persons to deal with it on a relationship level because it moves past that now. It's a matter that requires governmental action, and it needs to stop dragging its feet," Spence said.