Mental-health fair for Hanover elderly
Claudia Gardner, Assignment Coordinator
WESTERN BUREAU:The Mental Health Unit of the Hanover Health Department staged a health fair for the elderly last Thursday, which was recognised internationally as World Mental Health Day.
The event was staged under the theme 'Mental Health and Older Adults' and included fitness demonstrations, presentations on general health; health checks, including vision and blood pressure checks; and massage therapy. It included display booths from Herbal Life, the Registrar General's Department, Professional Eyecare, the National Council on Drug Abuse, and the Ministry of Labour and Social Security.
The four-member Psychiatric Emergency and Maintenance team (PEMT) of the Western Regional Health Authority was also honoured at the function. The PEMT team, which consists of four psychiatric nursing aides, is based at the Cornwall Regional Hospital and is responsible for assisting the mental-health teams in all four parishes - Hanover, Westmoreland, St James, and Trelawny - with the treatment of patients, support on home visits, and assisting in calming patients and transporting them to hospital.
While emphasising that Mental Health Day is an initiative of the World Federation of Mental Health, Tonia Davy-Clarke, mental-health officer for the parish, said she was very happy that elderly persons were the focus of the commemoration this year.
"It has been a while since the focus has turned to the elderly. Our elders at times are neglected, so I am happy they are targeted this year. This year, the attention focused on illnesses that might affect the elderly by virtue of them ageing, for example, Alzheimer's and depression.
Davy-Clarke added: "Those are very common, but you find that the one that is most debilitating is the Alzheimer's. It is a progressive illness where when it starts, even though you can take treatment to slow it down, it still progresses."
Davy-Clarke said the mentally ill are often stigmatised, but Jamaicans should be made aware that anyone can become a victim of such disorders.
"I would just want to encourage Jamaicans to play any part that they can to help persons that are mentally ill. Remember, it is an illness just like you may have high blood pressure or diabetes. It is an illness just like any other. We should do whatever we can do to reduce the stigma because the stigma is affecting these patients," Davy-Clarke added.
"It is an illness that can affect anybody, and it is not just that it runs in families. You might be very healthy and you get into an accident, get a head injury, or experience or witness a traumatising or violent act, resulting in mental illness," the mental-health officer said.