Letter of the day: Mental Health Matters
THE EDITOR, Sir:
Being a mental-health practitioner and advocate, it grieves my soul when I assess the level of stigma and lack of awareness which surrounds mental-health issues in Jamaica. The struggle is real and the signs are on the wall, yet still, we fail to pay enough attention to this very apparent issue.
I know the issues that Jamaica faces are plenteous and dire, but many of our valuable assets - human resources, human beings - are being affected and impacted by this daily.
It is 2015. Can we please stop blaming mental illness on demon possession and psychological weakness in persons? As much as I am a believer in things of the supernatural realm, I also know the existence of mental illness (both biochemical and situational) to be true even more so.
Countless are the stories of persons living with mental illness being locked away by family members or put out on the street. Too many are the stories of our men (especially our police officers) taking the lives of their significant others and then themselves (please also note that September is observed as Suicide Prevention Month).
Let me also take time to highlight, from professional experience, that many of the persons who are homeless, who we drive past on the street side are, in fact, mentally well and healthy.
Mental illness is wide and varied and is not only confined to manifestations that end up in murder, suicide or persons dressing up and parading around in police uniform. There are persons with biochemical illnesses such as schizophrenia or bipolar depression, persons who struggle with grief such as the death of a loved one, persons who endure post-traumatic stress disorder such as sexual abuse or the Tivoli incursion and, unfortunately, the list goes on.
MORE FUNDING NEEDED
Cancer, diabetes and other chronic illnesses are diseases which affect persons and their families, and so does mental illness. It's time that we stop locking people away and speaking shamefully in hushed tones about these issues. Persons living with and affected by mental illness did not choose their lot in life and are not to blame or be put to shame. They cannot exorcise it away, dip in healing waters or simply wish to feel better.
More funding for treatment programmes is needed to raise awareness, increased quality of mental-health care, more candid discussion and more sympathy and empathy to those living with mental illnesses and struggling with life's issues. If you ask me, with the current state of affairs in Jamaica, I would say all of us have a little "touch of madness" to some extent or another. Let's deal with the mental-health matters because mental health matters.
Jhanille A. Brooks, M.A.
Mental Health Counsellor
Jamaica Mental Health Advocacy Network