On to representation for the mentally ill, Minister

Letters to the Editor

On to representation for the mentally ill, Minister

Monday, February 17, 2020

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Dear Editor,

The following is an open letter to Minister of Health and Wellness Dr Christopher Tufton:

Let me first congratulate you and the team you lead at the Ministry of Health and Wellness for giving mental health in Jamaica some attention and focus, which have been lacking for many years. For the first time in years a mental health patient can go to a private pharmacy and purchase his medication almost free of cost. That move, Minister, is having an inestimable impact on the lives of the community of mentally ill.

It is no secret that mental illness is a taboo subject, and people who are affected by this disease are often sentenced to a life of shame due to the stigmatisation of the disease.

Additionally, the ladder which society provides to scale the walls of prejudice, discrimination, and abuse of the community of mentally ill is much too short in order for them to unearth their talent and expand their productive capacity.

It is my humble opinion that the stigma attached to the disease is the biggest hurdle the community of mentally ill faces today.

Therefore, Minister, the media campaign that has been going on for some time now is also an excellent move aimed at increasing awareness and destigmatising mental illness.

Sir, I am recommending that you appoint a cadre of mental health patients to serve as mental health ambassadors who will be tasked to build support groups across the island and work with mental health patients to make them more knowledgeable about the disease and develop coping skills. These ambassadors would also develop creative partnerships with schools, the Church, and civic groups to develop projects targeting mental wellness.

Sir, I am disappointed that the Task Force on Mental Illness and Homelessness established by you in 2018, and led by psychiatrist Dr Earl Wright, never saw it fit to include a few mentally ill individuals to serve on it. Are you telling me, Minister, that of the over 100,000 people in Jamaica today who are mentally ill, you could not find two to serve on the task force? I think the absence of two or three mentally ill individuals serving on the task force is an affront to the human dignity and worth of people living with mental illness.

The reality is, Minister, that there are many mentally ill individuals right here in Jamaica who are eminently qualified and competent to serve and can serve well. I challenge you to exercise the humility of a servant leader and correct this disregard and disrespect to the community of the mentally ill.

Andre Wellington

Christiana, Manchester


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