Wed | Aug 15, 2018

Caring for the mentally ill

Published:Thursday | September 11, 2014 | 12:00 AM

The tragic death of Mario Deane from injuries sustained while in police custody has highlighted how mentally ill persons are cared for while in police custody. Deane should not have been placed in the same cell as persons who are mentally ill, and apparently, these mentally ill persons were not getting adequate medical attention.

A lock-up should never be the first place to put a mentally ill person. They should, as far as possible, remain with family and within communities while getting treatment. We should also remember that Jamaican cricketers, musicians, educators, pastors, businessmen, etc., have been afflicted with mental illnesses and have had mental breakdowns and nevertheless made outstanding contributions.

Robin Williams suffered from mental illness and committed suicide by hanging, but he was a talented and award-winning American actor who made great films such as Mrs Doubtfire, Patch Adams and Club Paradise, which was filmed in Jamaica.

US evangelist Rick Warren, author of A Purpose Driven Life, suffered from depression early in his ministry and had a son who had mental issues and who committed suicide.

There are celebrated Christian hymn writers who have suffered from mental illness. William Cowper (1731-1800), famous poet and hymn writer, was one such person. Cowper wrote hymns such a There is a Fountain Filled with Blood, Hark! my soul! It is the Lord, Oh! For a closer walk with God. In other words, persons who suffer from mental illness can contribute much to society.


Suffering from mental illness is not a sin. There is too much stigma and discrimination against people who suffer from mental breakdowns. Some persons are embarrassed to be seen consulting a psychologist or psychiatrist. People might even lose their jobs or denied jobs because of a history of mental illness.

Persons have different stress levels and different things stress people differently. Someone might lose a spouse tragically and it pushes that person over the edge, while another person handles that well but not the death of a child.

Professor Fredrick Hickling and clinical psychologist Vanessa Paisley have concluded that personality disorder is prevalent in Jamaica, affecting about one million citizens. Their finding is contained in the paper titled Population Prevalence of Personality Disorder in Jamaica. A person would be characterised as having a personality disorder if he or she is showing signs of a combination of the following factors: power-management struggles, psycho sexual dysfunction, and dependency issues (Gleaner, January 6, 2011). Since so many of us are susceptible to personality disorders, then we should have a plan to care for persons with mental illnesses.

People are made in the image of God and have intrinsic worth and dignity which are not erased because of a bout with mental illness. In the sight of God, a mentally ill person is equal to a person who is well-balanced. Jesus offers healing, which includes and involves the physical cure of individuals afflicted by disease, disablement and mental disorder. Therefore, caring for the mentally ill is a ministry from God.

Mental health deals with the psychological dimension of a person and facilitates thinking and feeling. There is also the spiritual which gives the person meaning and purpose and addresses the ultimate questions of life - who are we and how did we get here and what are we doing here. Both need to be in harmony for a meaningful life.

Bethel Baptist Church in Half-Way Tree monitors persons in order that the mentally ill persons will take their medication and be able to function properly.

Jamaicans, including the police, need to take better care of the mentally ill.

Rev Devon Dick is pastor of the Boulevard Baptist Church in St Andrew. He is author of 'The Cross and the Machete', and 'Rebellion to Riot'. Send feedback to columns@