Wed | Apr 8, 2020

Letter of the Day | Include the mentally ill in decision-making policies

Published:Monday | February 17, 2020 | 12:12 AM


Let me first congratulate Dr Christopher Tufton and the team he leads at the Ministry of Health and Wellness for giving mental health in Jamaica some attention and focus, which has been lacking.

For the first time, a mental health patient can go to a private pharmacy and purchase his medication almost free of cost. That move is having an inestimable impact on the lives of the community of the 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 the mentally ill is much too short in order for them to unearth their talent and expand their productive capacity.

Therefore, the media campaign that has be going on for some time now is also an excellent move aimed at increasing awareness and destigmatising mental illness. It is my humble opinion that the stigma attached to the disease is the biggest hurdle the community of the mentally ill faces today.

I am recommending that Dr Tufton 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 mental health ambassadors would also develop creative partnerships with the schools, Church and civic groups to create projects targeting mental wellness.


I am disappointed that the Task Force on Mental Illness and Homelessness, established by Minister Tufton in 2018 and led by psychiatrist Dr. Earl Wright, never saw it fit to include a few mentally ill individuals to serve on the task force.

Am I to understand that of the over 100,000 people in Jamaica today who are mentally ill, the ministry could not find two to serve on the task force?

I think the absence of two or three mentally ill individuals serving on that initiative is an affront to the human dignity and worth of people living with mental illness.

The reality is 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 Minister Tufton to exercise the humility of a servant leader and correct this disregard and disrespect to the community of the mentally ill.