Increasing mental-health cases in Western Ja cause concern
Barrington Flemming, Gleaner Writer
WESTERN BUREAU:Dr Lisabeth Crossman, regional psychiatrist in the Western Regional Health Authority (WRHA), says the growing number of persons, especially the young, who are now suffering from mental health issues in the western region is now a major cause for concern.
Statistics from the WRHA shows that there are more than 6,000 mentally ill persons in the region and based on 2011 population census, it would mean that 13.5 per cent of the 472,611 persons living in St James, Hanover, Westmoreland, and Trelawny are mentally ill. Of that number, 3,000 are suffering from schizophrenia.
St James has 1,000 mentally ill persons with 126 homeless persons living on the streets. The parish also lead in the number of person with schizophrenia followed by Westmoreland, Hanover, and Trelawny.
Speaking to Western Focus last Friday at the WRHA office at Payne Street, Montego Bay, Crossman said what was becoming really urgent was the fact that the majority of the youth, which are being seen at hospitals, are substance abusers.
"We are seeing an increase in the number of young persons not only coming to clinic, but being admitted to hospitals," said Crossman. "... and I can safely say that over 90 per cent of those young persons have a psychosis; which is a change in behaviour or in their speech or in their total action and also not being in touch with reality ... over 90 per cent of them are using substances".
According to Crossman, the primary substances being abused are marijuana, crack/cocaine, nicotine and alcohol.
Crossman also noted that mental health professionals are also concerned with the fact that more children are being referred to hospitals and clinics to access mental health services.
"We are seeing more children being referred either because they are smoking or because they have some behavioural problems or they are not learning as they should. So we are seeing an increase in those numbers beings sent to our clinics," the doctor said.
Crossman said parents need to look out for certain signs, which would indicate that something is wrong with their child and seek the requisite treatment.
"Parents need to identify any changes in their youngsters early," Crossman said. "You see some changes; the trend in their academics ... they are declining, they are not learning well, they have started to smoke, they don't want to go to school, they are withdrawn they don't want to socialise even with their peers. They don't want to take care of themselves, (their hygiene) are but some of the signs you can look out for."
Quizzed as to the health sector's ability to deal with the increase, Crossman said the situation is compounded by staff shortage and lack of resources.
"I think it is across the health sector that we really do not have, not only staff, but resources as well. We only have one person for the psychiatric emergency and maintenance team serving the region," she said.
World Mental Health Awareness Day was observed on Friday, October 10. The WRHA observed the day under the theme 'Living with Schizophrenia' by staging an awareness march, involving high school students handing out pamphlets across the city. A brief awareness programme hosted by the WRHA featured performances from Supreme Prep and St James High schools.