JIS News

Minister of Health, John Junor has challenged mental health practitioners and officers to become more vocal in promoting the shift from mental health institutional care to community care.
For the past 40 years in Jamaica, he said that the Ministry had been striving to create a shift in the care paradigm from traditional institutional care to one that was based in the community.
The Minister was speaking at the 23rd Biennial Conference of the Caribbean Federation for Mental Health, which was held from October 28 to 30 at the Liguanea Club in New Kingston.
“I want the professionals in the field to articulate the correctness of the shift, because it is more acceptable to the wider population, and it is more believable, if articulated by you,” Minister Junor stressed.
The level of resistance, he continued, would decrease towards the concept. “Come out of the woodwork and let your voices be heard more for the need for the paradigm shift,” he said.
Mr. Junor also invited more persons, such as pastors and politicians, to tackle the issue, because they were able to create more opportunities for spreading the word in their respective areas of influence. Vocal support, the Minister said, was not only important in creating a critical mass of support for the new paradigm shift, it was important in speaking to the issue of stigma, which still existed in Jamaica and in other Caribbean countries.
“Many of the mentally ill are perceived to be violent, suicidal, unpredictable and incapable of rational decisions. Community understanding and acceptance is a pre-requisite in reducing stigma and enabling persons with mental illnesses to re-integrate into the community,” he said.
Mental Health research has indicated that community-based rehabilitation is essential in helping the affected individual to re-establish self identity, establish and re-establish social ties, develop further social skills, as well as facilitate reintegration into the community in the smoothest way.
Minister Junor said further that community-based rehabilitation was critical in the individual’s recovery. “We have had some success, but unfortunately the programme has not developed at the pace anticipated, consequently only limited rehabilitative services are currently available in the country,” he informed.
The Bellevue Hospital, which is the largest mental health hospital of its kind in the English-speaking Caribbean, has been providing the bulk of services to patients, until recently when the services were extended to the Cornwall Regional Hospital.
The University Hospital of the West Indies has also provided assistance, in addition to other local non-profit organisations, such as the Committee for the Upliftment of the Mentally Ill in Montego Bay, the Clarendon Association of Street People and the Westmoreland Association of Street People.
The Minister acknowledged that there were hindrances to the success of the Ministry’s thrust towards the community-based rehabilitative programme. Funding, he pointed out was one of the major problems identified.
Despite the limitations and obstacles in pushing the concept, Mr. Junor said that the Ministry was currently integrating the mental health programmes into other health programmes.
“We have been emphasizing a holistic approach to health and general well-being, because there is no good health, unless there is good mental health,” the Minister said.

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