JIS News

Director of Mental Health and Substance Abuse in the Ministry of Health, Dr. Maureen Irons-Morgan, has said that more focus must be placed on the impact of disasters on mental health.
She said that practitioners must be equipped with the necessary skills and resources to protect their psychological health and that of others in the wake of disasters and other catastrophic events.
Mrs. Irons-Morgan was speaking at the 6th Annual Symposium of the Community Mental Health Nursing Group at the Jamaica Conference Centre on Friday (July 2), under the theme: ‘The Impact of Disasters on Mental Health’.
Regional Mental Health Officer for the Southern Region, Marcia Mullings-Barrett, in concurring, stated that whenever a disaster occurs, a lot of resources are expended to assist persons, but quite often “the mental health aspect, the psycho-social aspect is ignored.”
Using the example of the recent civil unrest in Western Kingston, she said that while the situation was man made, the Ministry’s mental health team had to go into the affected communities to provide psycho-social support for the residents.
Acting Director of Human Resource Management and Industrial Relations at the South East Regional Health Authority (SERHA), Novlene Leslie-Little, noted further that hurricanes, earthquakes, and other major disasters not only take their toll on buildings and infrastructure, but also on the mental health of victims and volunteers.
“In fact, mental health concerns exist in most aspects of preparedness, response, and not just recovery,” she stated.
She pointed out that persons exposed to a disaster need help in the immediate aftermath and so mental health professionals continue to play an integral role in assisting these victims in coping and putting the pieces back together.
Senior Counsellor at the University of the West Indies (UWI) Mona, Dr. Angela Gordon-Stair, who spoke on the psychological impact of disasters, encouraged the mental health practitioners present to empathise with persons, who have experienced disaster.
She however, cautioned them not to impose their values on victims, particularly in very delicate situations.
The Community Mental Health Nursing Group consists of mental health officers and practitioners from the Ministry.
The group hosts an annual symposium to impart knowledge as it relates to mental health issues that affect Jamaicans.

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