JIS News

Jamaica has achieved success in mental health care through the integration of mental health services at the primary care level, said Director of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services in the Ministry of Health, Dr. Maureen Irons-Morgan.
Speaking at a JIS Think Tank on Tuesday (Oct. 6), she said that over the past 40 years, Jamaica has managed to move away from institutional care for mental health patients towards more community-based care.
Mental health services are provided in some 139 community mental health clinics island-wide. The increased accessibility, Dr. Irons-Morgan noted, has resulted in marked improvement in people’s attitude towards the mentally ill, while more persons with mental health disorders are encouraged to seek treatment.
“When services are offered at the primary care level, it means that it is more accessible to persons and it means that we have managed to cut away from the stigma and dissociation that is associated with highly specialised facilities in mental health care,” she argued.
She noted that increased public education efforts, to empower persons with information on mental health, have also helped to reduce the stigma and discrimination.
“We want the community to know that they can actually take action in terms of promoting mental health, preventing mental illnesses and helping to treat people, who are mentally ill,” Dr. Irons-Morgan stated.
“We are trying, in particular, to get everyone to be aware of the fact that they have an important part to play in maintaining mental health, in promoting mental health and that persons, who are affected by mental disorders of any kind, can access support at the community level from their families and with different supportive organisations in the community,” she added.
The Ministry of Health data shows that 48,752 persons were treated for mental health conditions at health centres in 2008. The number is 3,654 more than the 45,098 patients, which were seen in 2007. Schizophrenia was the most prevalent disorder diagnosed and treated in mental health clinics.
Jamaica joins the rest of the world in observing World Mental Health Day on Saturday, October 10 under the theme: ‘Empowering Individuals, Families and Community Organisations’.
Dr. Irons-Morgan said that the observance provides an opportunity to raise awareness about the importance of mental health in overall wellness.
She noted that “more and more, as we have moved into a new realm of new treatments, we are appreciating the fact that mental illnesses are really illnesses of the brain. There is a real structural change and chemical change that occurs when people develop mental illnesses and these are responsive to the appropriate medication.”
“While not all of them may be cured, certainly the symptoms are usually able to be controlled,” she stated.
The Ministry is observing a week of activities from October 5 to 11 to mark the observance to include workshops in the four health regions to train general health workers to become more competent in delivering mental health care at the primary health care level.
A National Mental Health Symposium will be held on Friday, October 9, at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel. The main presenter will be Consultant Psychiatrist, Dr. Anthony Allen, who will present a model for training communities to offer improved mental health care at the community level.
On Saturday, October 10, screenings for depression with subsequent referral service will take place in various parishes.
World Mental Health Day is an observance of the World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH). The global theme is: ‘Mental Health in Primary Care: Enhancing Treatment and Promoting Mental Health.’

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