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Destigmatise mental health in Jamaica - Tufton

Published:Thursday | October 11, 2018 | 12:00 AMPaul Clarke/Gleaner Writer
From left: Myo Kyaw Oo, senior medical officer of Bellevue Hospital, and Minister of Health Dr Christopher Tufton speak with a resident-patient in the Occupational Therapy Department of Bellevue Hospital in Kingston. Looking on at right is Latoya McFarlane, chief executive officer of Bellevue Hospital. The minister was on a tour of the hospital on Tuesday. World Mental Health Day was celebrated yesterday (October 10).

Destigmatising mental health is a sure way of showing the humane side of the Jamaican society, Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton said in his comments to mark World Mental Health Day, celebrated each year on October 10.

"A big part of the process is to destigmatise mental health because that stigma affects our response both at the personal, family level, or at the societal level in how we deal with those persons who are mentally challenged," he said.

Tufton reasoned that what is needed is a strong sensitisation programme geared at giving information to the public that persons suffering from mental illness can be treated and must not be sidelined by caregivers.




Tufton said that there is need for people to recognise the symptoms and signs of persons who may be mentally ill and to support and give help where necessary to those affected.

"Mental health in Jamaica is a big problem. The Mental Health and Homelessness Task Force report suggests that four out of every 10 Jamaicans at some time in their lives are challenged by mental issues. Therefore, while we pay attention to this kind of illness, it is better that we take a community-based approach," Tufton said.

The minister pointed out that the destigmatisations of mental illness would go a far way in creating a better, more caring Jamaica.

"There is always a need to highlight the issue of mental health illness and to address it. But the truth is, in the scheme of things, the people of Bellevue Hospital have been abandoned, basically, and you don't know they exist until something happens."

In the meantime, Acting Director for the Mental Health and Substance Abuse Unit in the Ministry of Health Kevin Goulbourne is concerned that not many persons are able to detect young relatives who may be suffering from a mental illness.

It is widely accepted worldwide that mental health issues become evident in someone around the age of 14 years, but it takes up to about 10 years to show the full manifestation.