JIS News

Director of the Mental Health Unit in the Ministry of Health, Dr. Earl Wright, has assured that the Ministry was working to address the adverse psychological effects of Hurricane Ivan, and that it had commenced educating persons on post traumatic stress disorder.
He was responding to Chief Medical Officer in the Ministry of Health, Dr. Barry Wint’s call for more psychological attention to be given to persons who had been severely affected by Hurricane Ivan. The Mental Health Director further informed that in fact, persons, who might be suffering from post traumatic symptoms, which appeared three or four weeks after the event, were being screened at health centres.
The health officials were speaking at the opening of the Mental Health Conference at the Jamaica Conference Centre in Downtown Kingston on October 14.
Dr. Wint noted the need for more emphasis and recognition to be placed on the mental health challenge resulting from disasters such as Hurricane Ivan. Such recognition, he added, would influence the response to the particular stressors that manifested themselves during and after disasters.
“We already know that pregnant women go into premature labour, and we also know that cardiac arrests increase as a result of stress associated with the disaster,” Dr. Wint pointed out. Indeed he said, even some suspected cases of gastroenteritis that emerged after the hurricane were not caused by food, but were in fact mentally related.
The CMO said that this was evident due to the shortness of the illness, as well as the fact that the patient complained of “getting a low feeling in the pit of the stomach,” which was all related to anxiety brought on by the disaster.
He also challenged researchers present to document the mental health experience of Jamaicans following Hurricane Ivan. “We have a chance to do this now having gone through the experience, and it is not too late because sometimes these mental effects take a little time to manifest themselves,” Dr. Wint said.
“Let us review those people who we already have in our care, and let us look at the new cases that might arise in the community, and see whether we register an increase in those cases related to this kind of episode,” he further elaborated.
As part of the activities to observe Mental Health Week, mental health teams from the South and South East health regions visited the hurricane victims in Portland Cottage in Clarendon on October 15.

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