Our peo­ple are very DE­PRESSED!

NERHA to high­light emo­tional dis­or­ders dur­ing Men­tal Health Week

Jamaica Gleaner - - SPORTS - ru­ral@glean­erjm.com

PORT MARIA, St Mary:

IR­RE­SPEC­TIVE OF their lo­ca­tion, black pop­u­la­tions all over the world are gen­er­ally re­luc­tant to ac­knowl­edge men­tal health is­sues, and even less com­fort­able seek­ing treat­ment for them.

Ja­maica is no ex­cep­tion, which is why the guid­ance and sup­port of­fered by men­tal­health of­fi­cers such as Hy­acinth Sa­muels are so im­por­tant.

Next week, Sa­muels and her col­leagues at the North East Re­gional Health Au­thor­ity will host a se­ries of events across the three parishes she is re­spon­si­ble for, St Mary, St Ann, and Port­land, to ob­serve Men­tal Health Week (MHW).

Sa­muels be­lieves MHW is a use­ful and timely cel­e­bra­tion be­cause the num­ber of chil­dren and adults in­di­cat­ing psy­chi­atric dis­or­ders is rapidly in­creas­ing. She told Ru­ral

Xpress: “World Men­tal Health Day is Oc­to­ber 10, but we ac­tu­ally cel­e­brate the en­tire week to try and get our­selves out there, be­cause we can­not just be ed­u­cat­ing men­tal health prac­ti­tion­ers.

ED­U­CAT­ING THE PUB­LIC

“We have to be ed­u­cat­ing the pub­lic, too, be­cause we’re get­ting more and more in­di­vid­u­als pre­sent­ing with de­pres­sion and anx­i­ety, and they don’t know where to go be­cause there is a fear of men­tal health. So in MHW, we’ll be do­ing a lot of ed­u­ca­tion and pub­lic speak­ing, a march, a sem­i­nar, and a church ser­vice.”

Each week, in St Mary alone, Sa­muels and her team de­liver ser­vices to more than 50 chil­dren and adults who, she ex­plained, suf­fer mostly from de­pres­sion. “We tend to think men­tal health is just about mad­ness – the man or wo­man run­ning around pos­sessed, strip­ping off their clothes, and talk­ing in tongues.

“But what we, the prac­ti­tion­ers, are see­ing is that de­pres­sion is very much on the in­crease in adults and chil­dren, so we are putting a lot of fo­cus on emo­tional dis­or­ders. We tend to demon­strate how we feel with anger and vi­o­lence, so part of MHW is to do more work pub­li­cis­ing de­pres­sion be­cause our peo­ple are very, very de­pressed.

CHAL­LENGES

“We have an aw­ful lot of chal­lenges like poverty, home­less­ness, cases of child abuse; and if you’re tak­ing drugs or drink­ing, you will get pe­ri­ods when you are de­pressed. An­other prob­lem is the sep­a­ra­tion of fam­i­lies caused by things like the farm-work pro­gramme. A lot of chil­dren are af­fected by par­ents who mi­grate to places like Amer­ica and the United King­dom for bet­ter prospects.”

Sa­muels ac­knowl­edges that men­tal health ser­vices have de­vel­oped tremen­dously in re­cent years, but in­sists there is still much work to be done, par­tic­u­larly in the Ja­maica Con­stab­u­lary Force, where de­pres­sion is ram­pant among rank-and-file of­fi­cers.

She said:” Men­tal health has moved a long way from just be­ing about Belle­vue Hos­pi­tal. There is far more com­mu­nity in­volve­ment now, we do a lot of pre­sen­ta­tions in schools and churches, even out­side of our work­ing hours.

“We’re out there ed­u­cat­ing the pub­lic and even of­fi­cers in the po­lice force, many of whom iden­tify that they feel very de­pressed and have prob­lems with anx­i­ety be­fore go­ing out on op­er­a­tions, and par­tic­u­larly when they come back. Look­ing for­ward, what we need is more re­sources. We need psy­chol­o­gists placed within each po­lice area, and more in­di­vid­u­als who have skills work­ing with chil­dren.”

PHOTO BY ORANTES MOORE

Men­tal health of­fi­cer Hy­acinth Sa­muels.

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