Dr Saphire Longmore: Healing Troubled Minds
After 15 years in general medicine, Consultant Psychiatrist Dr Saphire Longmore, last month, opened her private practice at the Grosvenor Galleries in Manor Park, St Andrew. The former Miss Jamaica World, has always epitomised the contest's maxim: 'Beauty with a Purpose' and, over the years, has served the University Hospital of the West Indies, Kingston Public Hospital, and more recently, as a part-time consultant with the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). Dr Longmore is also a guest lecturer in Neuroanatomy at the University of the West Indies (UWI).
For Dr Longmore, the move comes at a time when having always worked from other colleagues' offices, it is part of her personal growth to make this solo flight. But equally important, is that, over the years, she has made time for family - getting married and having two sons. "My new work hours will afford me more time for my family. Clients will come in only by appointment in a location ideal for privacy, because persons who are concerned about the stigma attached to seeing a psychiatrist can simply slip into my office while browsing the gallery," Longmore told Outlook in an interview there.
The space is a blend of the traditional and modern psychiatrist's domain. Yes, there is the couch, but it is made comfy with a throw and pillows and for those who prefer, there's a comfortable armchair and a rug on the floor. The beautiful doctor guides her clients from a director's chair behind an uncluttered desk. The office is cool with air conditioning but there is a fan - if preferred. It is made complete with a bookshelf and fresh flowers.
The plunge also comes at a time Dr Longmore said, "When people were seeking me out to help them and did not even want to speak to a receptionist. People with mental illnesses need discretion and privacy when they are in a traumatic situation," she states.
But, Dr Longmore will also make the occasional house call for crisis cases that require it. "The home environment can reveal vital information about the real reasons for a problem, and some clients' mental state can be so dire they literally cannot leave home," she explained.
Among the biggest problems facing Jamaicans in need of a psychiatrist are those affecting women, especially because they feel disadvantaged. Dr Longmore cites relationship issues such as infidelity, conflicts with core values - especially when children are involved and coping with conflicts in the home, Dr Longmore told Outlook.
"Severe mental illnesses among women are also exacerbated at certain times of the month and understanding this is key. Women in high-functioning jobs, who do not know how to balance family, career, and home, become severely stressed and this can also lead to mental illness," Dr Longmore said.
But the biggest problem is among children whose issues with their parents often lead to the need for professional help. "Very often, they are affected by what their mothers are going through. They have issues with drugs, attention deficit disorder, and issues with conduct," Dr Longmore explains. She cautioned against the decriminalising of marijuana that could have significant negative effects on persons who are predisposed to mental problems. "We need to be careful how that message is sent," she states.
She noted that since brain growth stops at age 21, and we are not yet near a level of control of alcohol use, we must tread carefully. "It is hard to appreciate the effects of mental problems on the rest of your life and those who do not, will react negatively or take the easy way out by substance abuse," she added.
With just about 20 practisng psychiatrists in Jamaica, Longmore, who uses the preventive approach, said the country is not close to the number required, plus there are added concerns that there are not enough available psychiatrists to operate at the community mental health level. "This can lead to disastrous consequences such as more street attacks by the mentally ill," said Longmore, adding that people need to operate at their optimal capacity both at work and play.
In spite of the stigma attached to mental illness, even among some medical personnel, Dr Longmore who describes herself as a problem solver, opines that this stigma results from lack of understanding. "The profession needs more people, and I would encourage young medical students to consider it. Problems are many, but you can be empathetic and still leave them behind at the end of the day. The face of psychiatry is evolving and I love it because I find the mind very fascinating," she said.
Longmore, who also works with couples, says she feels happiest when a patient's problem is 100 per cent solved and they return to a level where they are functioning normally and tell her she is no longer needed.
Dr Longmore is located at 1 Grosvenor Terrace, Suite B, within the Grosvenor Gallery, Kingston 8. You can see her by appointments only by calling: 844-4155 or by emailing:email@example.com or via Skype:DRSAPHIRE