Our people are very DEPRESSED!
NERHA to highlight emotional disorders during Mental Health Week
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.
“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.”
Mental health officer Hyacinth Samuels.