Tue | Dec 12, 2017

Earl Wright | Myth about mental illness accounts for many atrocious acts of violence

Published:Sunday | December 3, 2017 | 12:00 AM

An alarming 80 per cent of Jamaicans hold the view that mental illnesses are caused by demon possession and obeah. Many individuals think that they have to beat out or kill the demon or the individual. This may account for some of the atrocious acts against the mentally ill, as we see have seen in recent news reports.

The overwhelming scientific evidence points to mental disorders as being chronic brain diseases for which there are many effective treatments available in Jamaica.

To prevent these incidents, we look forward to the Ministry of Health's Comprehensive Mental Health Promotion and Education programme and the further development of the Community Mental Health Services where every individual with psychosis, 'madness', can be appropriately treated and monitored on an ongoing basis.

Community-based organisations and especially the Church have major roles to play.

Psychosis is not the major mental disorder contributing to violence in Jamaica. Among the most prevalent mental disorders contributing to violence in Jamaica are personality disorders and substance abuse-related problems. Parenting skills and appropriate investment in brain development from birth, especially during the first 1,000 days, need to be significantly improved to help reduce the impact of these disorders.

The future that the Government, the private sector and Jamaican residents in general hope for requires significant money to be invested where it counts, and with all due haste. Each day we put off these investments the future will cost us more.

- Dr Earl Wright is a consultant psychiatrist and president of the Jamaica Psychiatric Association.