Sun | Jan 29, 2023

Letter of the Day|Mentally ill street people have human rights and dignity, too

Published:Thursday | December 8, 2022 | 12:27 AM

THE EDITOR, Madam:

The primary objective of the annual observance of International Human Rights Day on December 10 is to promote our rights, freedoms, civil liberties and dignity as human beings. Every year on December 10, I have noticed that there are only a few civil society groups and private individuals that seem to be passionate about the call for the protection and promotion of our inalienable rights and dignity as human beings.

As the theme for this year’s International Human Rights Day is on the International Declaration of Human Rights, I am making a call, as a mental health patient and advocate, for the society to address the broken rights and dignity of mentally ill persons living on the streets. Our collective conscience and moral compass must be challenged by the hundreds of mentally ill persons we pass on the streets daily eating from garbage, stained with dirt, sweat, and body odour due to lack of proper hygiene. We walk past many of them sitting and sleeping out in the sun or rain like animals, without anywhere to provide shelter or care.

It pains me as a mentally ill person to witness the subhuman treatment meted out towards many mentally ill persons living on the streets. I think we are a much better people than the evidence suggests, and we must urgently move towards corrective actions. We must come to appreciate that mentally ill persons living on the streets are human beings, too. They are Jamaican citizens deserving of a life with dignity. We can end homelessness and eliminate the stain on the aesthetics of our townships caused by mentally ill persons living on the streets.

TRANSITIONAL SHELTER

If we are going to engender a kinder and gentler society where human rights and dignity are respected, we will have to respond to the broken rights and dignity of mentally ill persons living on the streets. Indeed, as a Christian society, we could seek counsel from the book of Matthew 25 verse 40, where Jesus said, “In as much as you have done it to one of the least of my brethren you have done it unto me.”

Challenging injustice and abuse requires those of us who are more privileged to champion the cause of the voiceless and powerless among us. Let us use this year’s International Human Rights Day to respond to the broken rights and dignity of mentally ill persons living on the street. We can begin by advocating for every constituency to have at least one transitional shelter available for homeless, mentally ill persons.

Let us lend support towards mentally ill persons living on the street and change the narrative that a broken mind means a broken life. The word is always love!

ANDRE A.O. WELLINGTON, JP

Mental Health Patient and

Advocate