Tue | Aug 3, 2021

Mental health of young Jamaican males

Published:Sunday | June 20, 2021 | 12:07 AMDr Geoffrey Walcott - Contributor

The focus on mental well-being of young Jamaican males forces us to confront the daunting realities of violence in our country. The murder rate and the reports showing that the predominant group being arrested for murders is young men ages 16 to 25 begs the question, what is going wrong?

A question that has been researched and clear evidence, unearthed by anthropologist and social scientist Herbert Gayle, that points to issues of childhood trauma that goes untreated. Insights into the long-term ramifications of childhood trauma in our young men help us to understand the manifestations of destructive behaviour in our society. Judith Herman articulated the psychological transformation that occurs in the minds of trauma victims when the perpetrator is the primary caregiver as identified by Gayle. Herman describes a transposition of an identity structure of badness or evil from the perpetrator to the victim to maintain a sense of attachment to the abuser. This identity structure perpetuates a negative sense of self, paradoxically with undying love and loyalty to their abuser despite the abuse.

This pathological sense of self cannot be unearthed through logical reasoning or direct confrontation. The work of psychiatrist Frederick Hickling has shown that to address these issues, empowerment and cultural reformation has to be the method of transformation. Hickling and Hutchinson, in their paper on shifting delusions of identity, stated, “Cultural control and the ability to culturally validate themselves in modes of expression from religion to music have been protective in dealing psychic challenges of history.”

The work in cultural therapy by Hickling has shown that process produces healthy authority management, reduced impulsivity and aggression, and fosters a positive sense of self described as ‘smadification’, a word coined by the late Rex Nettleford.