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Stabroek News

Services for mentally-ill persons
published: Wednesday | March 8, 2006

Wendel Abel

MENTAL ILLNESS touches on almost every aspect life in this country. In fact, it is reported that one in four persons is affected by a mental disorder. Common mental disorders include depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia and drug abuse.

There are over 20,000 persons in this country being treated for mental disorders who live regular lives in their communities. Having a mental disorder is not a death sentence.

There are many services available to persons living with mental disorders. Some of them are listed below:

Subsidised medication: The National Health Fund has prioritised mental disorders. Persons with conditions such as depression, psychotic disorders (for example, schizophrenia), epilepsy and other chronic conditions can receive the most up-to-date medication at substantially reduced costs. To register under this programme, ask your doctor or psychiatrist to complete a special form. Persons applying should have a TRN number. I would strongly advise persons who are having difficulty purchasing their medication to apply. This is highly recommended for persons on the newer and more expensive medication.

Crisis service: If you have a mental health crisis and need assistance, a number of emergency services are now available. These services are helpful for persons who may be violent and aggressive at home or who may not be willing to comply with their treatment. The team may visit the home, counsel with the family members, administer medication or take the person to the hospital. Call 927-1620-9 (University Hospital), 952-5100-9 (Cornwall Regional Hospital) or 930-1152 for the Windward Road Clinic for Crisis Calls.

Support for family members: Mental illness may put a great toll on family members. There is a family support group that meets on a regular basis. It is a great source of support and I would strongly recommend that you join this group. The name of the group is MENSANA and their contact number is 924-2434.

Vocational rehabilitation: A lot of persons living with mental illness are unemployed and are idle at home. Over the last few years, a number of programmes have been developed to provide skills training and vocational training for the mentally ill.

Some of these programmes include Committee for the Upliftment of the Mentally Ill (CUMI) in Montego Bay (952-8737); Ferdie's House in Kingston (978-1108) and the Rainbow Centre at the Bellevue Hospital (928-1381-9).

Group homes for mentally-ill persons: The world has moved away from placing mentally-ill persons in large mental hospitals. In fact, in most civilised societies mentally-ill persons and persons living with physical disability live in small group homes in the community. Modern medication has made it easier to care for persons with mental illness. In Jamaica, group homes are becoming very popular. Unfortunately, a lot of persons are still resistant to having these facilities in their communities. But the reality is that this is the direction in which the world is going. Mentally-ill persons, when properly controlled, are at no risk to us in our communities. Remember, mental disorders are like any other conditions and persons living with mental disorders have a right to comfortable and safe accommodation that maintains their dignity. If you would like your relative placed in a group home, contact 978-1108.

Outpatient clinics for mentally-ill persons: The vast majority of persons living with mental illness are living in their communities and going about their normal and regular lives. There are over 100 clinics operating in Jamaica.

Remember, mental illness can affect anyone. The next person affected could be you or a family member. Let us love and treat mentally-ill persons with dignity and respect. If you have a family member who is mentally ill and is not getting better, there may be hope.

For more information on caring for the mentally ill, call 922 -3216.

Dr. Wendel Abel is a consultant psychiatrist and senior lecturer, University of the West Indies; email:

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