Letter of the Day: Mental health ... time for a paradigm shift
On April 20, another young Jamaican man of promise, Odane Bennett, lost his life full of promises and potential to the gun. A 23-year-old who was robbed of the chance to make meaningful contribution to this world.
There are several issues that come to light in Odane's demise. Why did his family choose to baptise him instead of taking him to Bellevue as advised? Why didn't the baptisers see that the demon needed to be exorcised with medication? And how a sleeping policeman allowed his high-powered weapon to be taken from him?
What was most disheartening to me was the seemingly callous responses from members of the general public. The words 'mad' and 'crazy' swirled around social media while people failed to acknowledge that his life was taken from him unfairly. His life could not be spared as it seemed to pose a threat to the lives of other 'normal' people.
What is apparent is the widespread misconception that ALL persons living with mental illness are violent and dangerous. We see the way they are portrayed in the media and the phrase 'mental illness' is automatically synonymous with 'di mad man'.
Professor Fred Hickling and other astute members of the field have given statistics and data on the small percentage of the mentally ill who are actually violent. But yet again, like many other issues in Jamaica, we focus on the wrong thing and major in the minor. We look at the most extreme cases and generalise misconceptions on thousands of people.
EQUAL IN VALUE
As a mental-health practitioner, I know, first hand, of the potential dangers of when a person experiences a psychotic break. However, I cannot fathom how several shots was an adequate solution to this unfortunate situation when a disabling shot to the leg or arm would have been enough to de-escalate the situation. I understand that people's lives were potentially in danger, but aren't police trained on how to shoot without killing? The lives of ALL Jamaicans are equal in value, including those living with mental illness.
As we move towards Jamaica's Vision 2030, let's place more emphasis on mental-health awareness and treatment. Investing in the mental health of our human resources is paramount in achieving sustainable development goals.
Implementing a comprehensive mental-health care system that facilitates prevention, early identification, crisis response, treatment, medication, rehabilitation and public education is of utmost importance, and it's time we jump on the global bandwagon.
JHANILLE A. BROOKS
Jamaica Mental Health Advocacy