Fri | Jun 5, 2020

Psychopaths on the loose - Psychiatrist senator calls for increased funding to tackle serious mental health problems

Published:Friday | February 7, 2020 | 12:25 AMEdmond Campbell/Senior Parliamentary Reporter

“There are psychopaths among us!” This was the conclusion of Government senator and consultant psychiatrist Dr Saphire Longmore after recounting some barbaric acts of violence against children and women in the Jamaican society.

“When someone can slice the throat of an eight-year-old child; when we sit and we hear of the women who are being killed brutally by their ex-partners and spouses, … when we hear of the heinous acts of just random killings, this is not just an arbitrary situation, this is a mentally ill society. There are sociopaths and psychopaths among us,” Longmore declared yesterday during her contribution to the State of the Nation Debate in the Upper House.

She argued that strategic plans for mental health had been crafted from the 1990s with another version done in 2006.

“It is time for us to put funding behind mental health,” she said.

The psychiatrist urged the police to enrol the services of some criminal psychologists in their investigations.

The Government senator’s presentation was focused on dealing with the manifestation of mental ill health in the society as evidenced by violence in the country.

Longmore said that many Jamaicans have been diagnosed with depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. She noted that these mental health issues were pervasive in the society but there were limited trained human resources to deal with these health problems.

MAN TIED TO GRILLE

Earlier in her presentation, Longmore showed her colleague senators a picture of a man who apparently had mental health issues tied to a fence that borders the Constant Spring Golf Course near Norbrook in upper St Andrew. Longmore said she was driving with her sons on a Sunday morning when she saw the man tied to the grille.

“I knew immediately that something was wrong with him mentally and he said ‘mi sick inna mi head and mi a get off and mi father come tie mi up here so’,” she recounted. Longmore said she asked the disturbed man for his father’s number and called him. The father reportedly told Longmore that his son was attacking members of the family with a machete and “he just could not take it anymore”.

Longmore said she instructed the father to seek help from the police to take his son to a psychiatrist for treatment.

She also called for every child in Jamaica to be screened for the effects of trauma.

“This is a move that the surgeon general of California has actually put in place because they recognise that these effects are not just for now,” she added.

Turning to the use of various drugs, Longmore reasoned that it was well established that a significant percentage of violent incidents had been linked to substance use.

In carrying out her job as a psychiatrist, the Government senator said she and other professionals in psychiatry have seen an increase in the number of parents seeking help for their children who have been visiting herb houses to use marijuana. She said the uptick in the use of these substances started in the wake of the decriminalisation of less than two ounces of ganja in 2015.

“This is the very thing that we tried to warn about. There is significant benefit that can be had but we must recognise that there are negative effects to the irresponsible use of these substances and there is no question that it contributes to violence in our society. What dem say, ‘kill and collect, smoke and forget’. It is a very real phenomenon and we need to effect control.”

edmond.campbell@gleanerjm.com