Doctors urged to report early signs of possible intimate-partner violence
The medical profession, the first official point of contact for many victims of intimate-partner violence, is being urged to become more active in providing information that could save lives or prevent harm to the mainly women who are killed by their partners, who then commit suicide.
Lead researcher in a recently completed study dubbed Intimate Partner Homicide-Suicide in Jamaica, Dr Audrey Pottinger, noted that in instances where there are injuries, victims of intimate-partner violence sometimes seek help from medical practitioners.
"The victims don't necessarily go the priest when there is intimate-partner violence, but they will go to their physician if they get cut or hurt. I think physicians, therefore, are the ones who need to be sensitised about what are some of the red flags (so) that when women and men come in, they know what to ask about in terms of relationship issues; about violence," said Pottinger during a recent Gleaner Editors' Forum.
PRIMARY ACCESS POINT
She argued that as a mechanism to reduce the rate of murder-suicides in Jamaica, which the study found to be higher than most countries in the world, medical doctors, the primary access point for the population, need to be open to reporting possible signs of danger presented by patients, whether they are mental health-related or other signs of violence, not self-inflicted.
"Another quick thing I want to say (that) is because we are at this point, where we are not yet accessing the mental-health services, then our physicians are persons whom our people access, and our priests.
"I think they also need to use the opportunity to de-myth some of these gender beliefs about men, the controlling, nagging. They need to also know what the red flags are that were are speaking about, the obsessiveness, the jealousy that men may present with, depression, and anger," added Pottinger.
MASK FOR DEPRESSION
The lecturer and consultant clinical psychologist at the University of the West Indies, Mona, noted that many of the perpetrators of violence against their intimate partners present with anger, which is sometimes a mask for depression.
"The doctors need to know that anger can be how men present with depression. So I think the physicians could be a primary target since (Jamaicans) are not readily accessing the mental health services," said Pottinger.
Researchers who conducted the Intimate Partner Homicide-Suicide study in Jamaica have issued a clarification on the rate that this has occurred in Jamaica over the past 10 years.
"As we understand it, the first rate was calculated cumulatively over the 10 years, resulting in 0.92 per 100,000.
"The rate has now been recalculated per year, providing an average range from the lowest to highest year. This is resulting in a rate of 0.07 to 0.14 per 100,000.
"Using the per-year calculation, our rates are lower than the United States. The rest of the data in which patterns were identified and such are accurate," said the researchers.