The Ministry of Health and Wellness is to host a forum in November, to discuss the increase in mental health cases in Western Jamaica.
Portfolio Minister, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton, who made the announcement following a visit to the Committee for the Upliftment of the Mentally Ill (CUMI) Rehabilitation Centre, in Montego Bay, on October 24, said there is an urgent need for public education in order to end the stigma against mental illness.
He said the forum is aimed at encouraging a community-based approach to tackling mental illness, as the public health system “does not have the capacity to deal with the issue alone.”
“We will pull together the public health personnel; the NGO community who are involved in mental illness treatment and others,” the Minister said.
He noted that far too many mentally ill persons are alienated by families and the wider community because of the stigma associated with the disorder.
“The truth is, many persons who suffer from mental illness can be treated, can be reintegrated and can live normal lives, and that is a very important message that we need to get out to the community,” Dr. Tufton said.
“Key to our policy is the community-based approach, which is to engage more of the community and have more personnel in the public health system cooperate with NGOs like CUMI. So, instead of institutionalising persons, which is normally the first temptation, it is how do we provide counselling, provide advice, medication if necessary, but have that person, as much as possible, remain in their natural environment with a full community and family support system,” he argued.
Meanwhile, Regional Psychiatrist at the Western Regional Health Authority, Dr. Lisabeth Crossman, lauded the Minister for giving focused attention to mental illness.
She said statistics show that mental illness affects one in four persons and as such, a collaborative approach is needed to change the perception around the disorder.
“We know that mental health has not been in the forefront of most persons’ mind and we do hope with this initiative, we will be able to go into all corners of Jamaica and get more persons informed about mental illness,” Dr. Crossman said.