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They are not mad! - Medical doctor says it is time for society to stop labelling medically challenged persons

Published:Wednesday | March 23, 2016 | 12:00 AM
Dr Janine Morris, senior house officer, Cornwall Regional Hospital.

Psychiatric nursing aides have been lauded for the work they have been doing with mental-health patients in hospitals across Jamaica.

"They have been integral to the development of mental-health services in this country for the past 44 years. They provide care to persons who are mentally challenged, routinely and during emergencies," says senior house officer in the Department of Psychiatry at the Cornwall Regional Hospital, Dr Janine Morris.

Addressing the 44th anniversary celebration of the Psychiatric Nursing Aides Association of Jamaica on March 21, at the hospital, Morris said the nursing aides are oftentimes the unsung heroes of the medical profession, providing a valuable service in mental health, saving lives and bringing families back together.

She noted that over the last three years, mental-health aides have contributed to the well-being and care of more than 100,000 persons who were seen and treated by the Ministry of Health's mental-health team.

Morris added that the association also has an annual outreach programme through which its members also give voluntary help and present gifts to nursing homes, children's homes and infirmaries across the island.

"This is a very demanding job, which also comes with some serious occupational hazards," she noted.

Morris said it is important that all Jamaicans play their part in the area of mental health, as "nobody knows for sure when it will hit close home ... when a close family member or a loved one will be affected".

"It is something that affects us all. We can't just turn our backs and use words such as mad or crazy to define persons who are mentally challenged. Those are two words that I really wish we would stop using. These people are human beings who are simply in need of help. This is why what the nursing aides are doing is so important," she said.




For her part, resident psychiatrist at the Cornwall Regional Hospital, Dr Lisabeth Crossman, pointed out that the nursing aides have to work with patients who are developmentally disabled mentally and in need of intensive care, as well as those with other mental impairments.

"Because they have such close and personal contact with patients, they can have a great deal of influence on the patients' outlook and treatment," she noted.

Meanwhile, chief executive officer of the association, Anthony Smikle, said their job is all about "taking care of our brothers and sisters".

"Members of the association, against the odds and against some trying and testing circumstances, have been standing tall and delivering a first-class service," he said