Mon | Aug 3, 2020

Mental-health crisis out west

Published:Friday | October 25, 2019 | 8:57 AMChristopher Thomas/Gleaner Writer


The tripling of mental-health cases in western Jamaica over the last 18 years has prompted Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton to call for targeted intervention and a vigorous programme attacking social stigma.

Data show that mental-health cases rose from 2,000 in 2001 to approximately 6,000 in 2018, Tufton said, indicating that there was urgent need to increase education and destigmatise mental illness.

“The mental-health statistics in the parishes of Hanover, St James, Trelawny, and Westmoreland suggest that more persons are coming forward, which is encouraging, but it also indicates the extent of the problem of mental illness,” said Tufton, who toured the Committee for the Upliftment of the Mentally Ill (CUMI) facility in Montego Bay yesterday as part of his ‘Speak Up, Speak Now’ campaign, which is designed to end the societal stigma against mental illness.

According to Tufton, the increase in the number of mental health cases required an urgent response, adding that the spiralling crisis was the basis for studies such as the Mental Health and Homelessness Task Force Report.

“It means that the challenge is amplifying and that the responsiveness of the system to treat that challenge is very important. ... Mental illness can affect the chief executive officer at the highest level, and, of course, it can affect those in much lower socio-economic groups,” the health and wellness minister said, emphasising that no social class was immune to its reach.

CUMI, which has 38 clinics in western Jamaica, employs 22 mental-health nurses and 33 aides.