JIS News

Did you know that it is not unusual for up to 10 per cent of the general population to suffer from major depressive disorders at some point in their lives? In light of this fact, the Ministry of Health is actively detecting and treating the various forms of mental illnesses in the society, through its continued activities to upgrade mental health practitioners, de-stigmatize mental illness, and develop a comprehensive range of mental health services, which will see not just hospitals, but the community as a whole, providing support for persons with mental disorders.
According to Director of Mental Health and Substance Abuse in the Ministry, Dr. Earl Wright the most prevalent mental illness in Jamaica is major depressive disorder.
This is supported by the Jamaica Lifestyle Survey report that 38 per cent of individuals have at least a major depressive disorder. Dr. Wright points out that depressive disorder is predicted to be the most common mental health problem in the year 2020.
Major depressive disorder, also known as clinical depression, affects different people in different ways. Some have trouble sleeping, they lose weight, and generally feel agitated and irritable. Others may sleep and eat too much and continuously feel worthless and guilty. Yet, others can function reasonably well at work and put on a “happy face” in the presence of others, while deep down they feel quite depressed and disinterested in life.
There is no one specific way that people look and behave when they have major depression. Nevertheless individuals will either have depressed mood or a general loss of interest in activities they once enjoyed, or a combination of both. In addition they will have other physical and mental symptoms that may include fatigue, difficulty with concentration and memory, feelings of hopelessness and helplessness, headaches, body aches, and thoughts of suicide”We also have a high incidence of individuals suffering from anxiety disorders, especially post traumatic disorders, and this might be due to the high level of violence, motor vehicle accidents and other traumatic events,” Dr. Wright says.
The link between mental illness and physical health is also a major focus of the Ministry in its efforts to tackle mental health problems. Mental disorders have been found to directly correlate with some lifestyle ailments.
“The body wasn’t meant to be under stress for long period of time, traffic, violence. in certain work situations people are under stress for months even years, therefore influencing the central nervous system, the continuous secretion of endocrine hormones into the blood system. This in the long term will cause mental problems, which will affect the brain, creating mental problems, which affect physical health,” Dr. Wright informs.
Mental Disorders, Dr. Wright further explains, affects an individual throughout their lifetime, affecting the incidence, the occurrence, and the outcomes of diseases.
It has been found that individuals with major depression are more likely to develop type two diabetes. “It influences the metabolism also it has an effect on the clotting of the blood cells and this also influences the cardiovascular diseases,” he says, adding that if a pregnant woman is under stress the child is more likely to develop type one diabetes. Dr. Wright points out that mental illness has roots in early childhood and can also occur during the developmental stages of an individual’s life, if trauma takes place at an early age. Some mental diseases, he notes, have been very constant in their prevalence and occurrence in the Jamaican society. Among these is schizophrenia, which has an incidence of a 1.2 rate, comparable with the global rate.
Other mental disorders, which may occur based on genetic pre-disposition, depend on a number of factors. “Whether you have the disease will depend on what happens to your mother and to you in the early years as we know that any significant loss early in life, separation trauma, abuse, will increase the incidence of major depressive disorder in your adult life,” he informs.
Dr. Wright notes that if a mother is under stress during pregnancy the temperament of the child will also be affected. “We are saying that high stress levels affects an individual before birth. If after birth the stress continues, if the mother is depressed or under severe pressure this will influence the relationship with the child,” he states.
The Mental Health Director further explains that, “If the mother is not available to the child as she should be, that affects how that child will relate later on in life. Also if there are major traumas to a child early in life with the developing brain, then you will find that those individuals are more likely to develop other types of problems later on in life”.
It has also been found that major depression affects more women than men. “That’s because women on an ongoing basis are subject to hormonal influences, childbirth, menopause and their menstrual cycles. You will have individuals being more susceptible to major depressive disorders. Women tend to ask for help more readily, therefore they will be more readily identified,” he says.
The Health Ministry coordinates a number of activities to assist persons who may be mentally ill. Dr. Wright notes that previously, persons who were diagnosed with schizophrenia were admitted to the Bellevue Hospital where they sometimes spent all their lives.
The Ministry aims to deinstitutionalize the Hospital and de-stigmatize mental illness through new legislation and a public education programme, upgrade mental health practitioners in the community, integrate mental health services within the general health service, train health workers in mental health, as well as develop a comprehensive range of services, which will also see the upgrading of existing facilities and the creation of new ones.

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