Ferdie's House - A novel approach to treat with those who are mentally ill!
When consultant psychiatrist Dr Wendel Abel opened Ferdie's House - an adult day-care centre for persons with mental-health issues - he envisioned that the concept would one day become a model for the treatment of the mentally ill in Jamaica.
Abel's confidence was based on the fact that developed countries were using the model instead of full-time institutionalisation of the mentally ill.
Two decades later, a task force established by health minister Dr Christopher Tufton to make recommendations for the treatment and care of the mentally ill has the Abel model of a day care, in which patients interact with each other several times per week as one of the suggestions for the treatment of persons with mental-health issues.
The Abel model sees the more advanced patients remaining at home with families, but travel to the day care three times per week.
Some patients are used to teach others skills they have honed before dealing with mental-health problem.
They are taught foreign languages, computer skills, gardening, but more important, they bond with each other and care for each other.
"The trend in treating the mentally ill is community treatment and the vast majority of our patients are treated at the community level. They live at home, and come to the centre, because that's how the family wants it.
"And it is a documented fact that the attendance to, and the sense of community in the day care has helped with the recovery process," Abel told Sunday Gleaner last week, during a visit to facility on Old Hope Road in St Andrew.
Nestled between an unnamed plaza and St Margaret's Church on Old Hope Road, Ferdie's House could be easily missed as the entrance is regular cookie cutter Georgian architecture.
However, stepping through the gates reveal a long backyard, where all the action takes place.
When our news team visited last Wednesday, the overcast skies and later moderate downpour did not dampen the excitement of the members who were anxious to head to Sovereign Centre for their regular shopping day.
Those who did not want to go to the plaza were watching a movie of their choice.
It's a part of the group therapy Abel prescribed and practise, and for him, it works.
"There is need for more of these facilities across the island and there is a movement towards that. This is shared care. We provide the expertise, and the families provide the loving environment where the persons remain with them. But there are some who come here but return to the group home residence in Vineyard Town," he explained.
"The programmes that are done here are determined by our clients. We used to offer sewing, but they said they didn't want to do it anymore. They want to do computer studies. So we are training individuals here in basic computer programme," added Abel.
According to Abel, Ferdie's House patients are allowed to be adults and do many of the things they do at home, including smoking outdoors.
At a cost of $12,000 per month, the patients attend the day care Mondays to Wednesdays between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Ferdie's House manager is Richard Blackman, who will soon complete is master's degree in counselling psychology.
He says the model is attractive to individuals from overseas pursuing studies and who need practical experience as part of their studies.
"Clients are taught many things that impact their daily life, such as getting up in the morning, leaving the house, taking the bus, talking to the police. Life skills. They are taught to function independently," added Blackman.
The clients are encouraged to register with the Jamaica Council for Persons with Disabilities to access social services and disability grants; reduced costs for bus tickets at the Jamaica Urban Transit Company, and the National Health Fund for significant assistance in drugs for the treatment of the mentally ill.