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Governments fail to invest in mental health treatment - Hickling

Published:Thursday | December 7, 2017 | 12:00 AMPaul Clarke
Professor Frederick Hickling (second left), psychiatrist and executive director of the Caribbean Institute of Mental Health and Substance Abuse making a presentation during a media sensitisation session on violence and mental health, yesterday.

Successive Jamaican governments have failed to adequately fund treatment and prevention programmes for the sizeable portion of the population suffering from one form or another of mental health disorder, says Professor Frederick Hickling.

He said, in addition, that it would require at least seven to 10 per cent of the health ministry's budget to be spent on mental health annually to address the problem.

"Absolutely not enough is being done at the moment. In other words, the resources that need to be spent to treat and to prevent these conditions are just not being spent either in the private sector or the public sector," said Hickling, the executive director of the Caribbean Institute of Mental Health and Substance Abuse.

"It is worse in the public sector because it is really poor people who require that investment, and it's not that the Government of both stripes doesn't know. They have been told exactly what is needed and what resources are needed to bring about the change that is necessary, yet over the years, they have paid us no mind," said Hickling.




He asserted that the discourse around the subject of mental illness in Jamaica must be taken to a higher level, with the strict understanding that much more is needed by way of financial support to deal with the situation. Hickling indicated that mental illness was being manifested in the country's runaway murder rate and the explicit antisocial behaviours witnessed daily in the public sphere, among other places.

As of December 2, more than 1,492 people have been murdered. The St James Police Division accounts for the majority, with more than 310 people killed, surpassing the record 265 recorded for all of last year.

'A third of population suffers from mental disorder'

Professor Frederick Hickling has said that nearly 41 per cent of the Jamaican population is eligible for a personality disorder diagnosis.

Additionally, he said that it may be that more than a third of the population suffers from one form of mental disorder or has suffered from it at some stage in their lives.

"And even then, the Government really has not paid us any mind. They certainly don't see this as very important, but the study from our psychiatrists and psychologists show the distinct link between the country's current state of indiscipline and mental illnesses," noted Hickling.

He said that approximately 15 per cent of the population has what is described as severe anti-social personality disorder, with the others being moderate and mild disorders.

What people call madness is really psychosis, and schizophrenic psychosis represents about three to four per cent of the society, data shows.