Sun | Dec 15, 2019

Take mental illness seriously

Published:Thursday | November 21, 2019 | 12:10 AM

THE EDITOR, Madam:

It is with deep regret I learned that a nine-year-old boy from Mason Hall in St Mary committed suicide. The issue of suicide is close to me, having lost a friend to suicide. I have also done extensive reading and research on the subject. According to Dr Dannovan Thomas in his book, Preventing Suicide, the thought and act of suicide is a cry for help. U-Report, a social-messaging platform, released a report on August 14, 2018, regarding the issue of suicide. The report stated that 65 per cent of Jamaicans don’t take the issue of mental illness seriously, particularly in children. The report also stated that two in every three persons who commit suicide suffer from some form of emotional or psychological problem.

Because of our culture of stigma and shame as it relates to mental health, many individuals suffer in silence and wait until their breaking point before they seek help, if they ever do. It is easier to speak about drug abuse, with crack cocaine, than to speak about mental-health struggles.

As a grown man and an educator, I am fully aware of our macho culture, for most males seeking psychological services and counselling is a sign of weakness. Given the inherent stressors of a strained financial economy and severe interpersonal and intrapersonal difficulties, embracing psychological services is not only important but essential. Good mental health is a crucial aspect of living a healthy life. Ignoring the possibilities and signs of mental illness is dangerous, or naïve, at best, and such attitude does more harm than good. Mental illness is real and it’s time we take it seriously as a society.

Andre Wellington