Sun | Dec 3, 2023

Psychologist wants social workers trained to deal with mentally ill persons

Published:Saturday | March 18, 2023 | 12:41 AMChristopher Thomas/Gleaner Writer


Western Jamaica-based family psychologist Dr Beverly Scott wants social workers who are trained in handling mentally ill patients to be assigned to community development committees (CDC), so that they can assist the relatives of mentally challenged persons.

In a recent interview with The Gleaner, Scott said that the CDCs need to be fully equipped to handle mentally imbalanced persons who are frequently seen in the communities where they live, or who may wander away from their homes and end up outside of their home district.

“What the Government needs to do is to put some social workers in the community so they can work with the community associations. We have CDCs that can be empowered to deal with mental patients, and while many of these people are professionals, they are not trained in terms of understanding certain behaviours and how to deal with issues in the family such as mental illness,” said Scott.

“The Government could either send social workers in the communities to work with these families who have mentally ill people among them, or they could train the CDCs to at least do some amount of intervention or referrals. The CDCs know the people in their communities, and, from my experience, they are desperate for training and collaboration,” added Scott.

Scott’s recommendation follows reports that the body of a man was found with chop wounds along Jimmy Cliff Boulevard in Montego Bay, St James on March 9. The man, who has not been identified, is believed to have been of unsound mind and may have wandered away from his home community.

At the recent monthly meeting of the St James Municipal Corporation, Councillor Kerry Thomas, the councillor for the Mt Salem division, raised concerns about the increasing number of mentally imbalanced persons roaming communities across the parish.

“What we have in some of our communities are people who are mentally ill that are on the streets, posing a problem and intimidating residents, and many residents feel uncomfortable in their presence,” said Thomas. “We have spoken to the police and they say that basically there is nothing they can do about them because, even if they take them to the hospital, they release them after some time.”

Persistent problem

The treatment of homeless people and mentally ill patients has been a persistent problem over the years. St James had an infamous moment in 1999 when agents of the state kidnapped 32 street people from the streets of Montego Bay and transported them by night to a mud lake near Santa Cruz, St Elizabeth, where they were dumped.

There have been other cases of mentally ill persons being mistreated. This includes last August’s murder of Lionel Johnson, who was set on fire by five juveniles along National Heroes Circle in Kingston, and the stabbing death of another unidentified homeless man in Portland last September.

In referencing the need to treat the mentally ill with more compassion, Scott highlighted a recent case where a man of unsound mind, who strayed from his home in St James, was killed in Santa Cruz, St Elizabeth.

“He strayed away down there to Santa Cruz and he was killed down there. The family knew he was not mentally well, but they could not do very much in terms of getting him to stay in his home, and he was not on medication,” said Scott.