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Women and the elderly high on the mental health radar

Published:Saturday | September 24, 2016 | 12:00 AMJodi-Ann Gilpin

One expert in the area of mental health has signalled that the elderly and women are high on the radar as groups most vulnerable to mental illness.

Psychiatrist Professor Wendel Abel told The Gleaner last Saturday that factors such as an ageing population, in addition to other stressful issues, continue to weigh heavily on various groups in society.

"There are those disorders that affect adults, such as depression, which is very common in women. One in five females are affected by depression. Of course, the elderly are also vulnerable given the fact that our population is ageing. We are beginning to have to deal with an increase in dementia among people who are living longer," Abel said.

"For a lot of women with depression, it's due to hormonal changes. So you find that when they are having their periods, the depression gets worse. When women get depressed, they go to the doctor or church; when men get depressed, they go to the rum bar," he told The Gleaner.

He bemoaned the fact that there continues to be a disparity between the services available to address mental health and the number of persons who actually receive treatment. This, he believes, could be dangerous for the under-resourced health sector.

The professor also stressed that one should not ignore the basics of practising healthy lifestyles in order to combat the effects of mental health diseases.




"We have to get people aware and seek help early. The reality is that help is available in Jamaica. Mental health services are offered in the public health system across the island, and what is also interesting is that most of the drugs we use to treat the mentally ill are covered by the National Health Fund, or if you go to a public health facility, they are free. Drugs are accessible. It's actually one of the strengths of the public health system," he said.

"Good mental well-being is critical. It's important for us to pay attention to our lifestyle and our choices in how we deal with stress. Although life is tough and rough, its very important that we remember to take care of ourselves," he charged.