Jaevion Nelson | SOS! Action needed on mental health | Remark

We place great value on the mental health needs of the population, although research increasingly shows that we need more than just talk. Just talking about mental illness will not help many people who struggle with anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation, post-traumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia, and other mental illnesses.

Yes, discussions and advocacy, whatever forms they take and the channels they use, are important but they need to be supported by progressive policy and action.

The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) states that “mental health is essential for personal well-being, interpersonal relationships, and successful contribution to society. Mental health problems therefore impose a heavy burden not only on individuals, families and society, but also on economies, as those with mental disorders are more likely to die prematurely, to leave the workforce, missing work days (absenteeism), or working at reduced capacity (presenteeism).

We must protect the health and well-being of thousands of Jamaicans struggling with mental illness. Mental illness is a chronic problem across the country; it’s ordinary.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “mental health is a state of well-being in which an individual becomes aware of their own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and is able to make a contribution to his community … Multiple social, psychological and biological factors determine a person’s level of mental health at all times.

The 2016-2017 Jamaica Health and Lifestyle Survey found that 14.3% of people suffer from depression. It found that women (18.5%) were more likely to suffer from depression and that the prevalence was highest among women in urban areas (19.2%). Jamaicans aged 75 and over had the highest prevalence of depression.

Psychosis (i.e. hallucinations, erratic social behavior, and delusions) accounts for eight in ten (80%) visits to public mental illness clinics across the island. For example, in 2016, psychosis was responsible for 106,674 visits to public health clinics.

Researchers believe that about 160,000 children suffer from mental disorders and 40,000 suffer from serious mental disorders.


These and other mental illnesses affect individuals and their loved ones in several ways. It can cause stress, poor (physical) health, unhappiness, isolation, decreased productivity, drug use, sleep disturbances and poor academic performance, among others, especially when it is not is not processed.

In addition to the individual, families and society can also be affected. A 2019 investment case analysis conducted by PAHO suggests that the impact of mental illness goes beyond the individual and their family.

The reports revealed that “in Jamaica, the burden of mental illness is considerable and is expected to result in a loss of US $ 2.76 billion in economic output from 2015 to 2030, an economic burden greater than that of anyone. what category of noncommunicable diseases, except cardiovascular diseases. sickness.”

Fortunately, despite the many challenges that persist, more and more people are accessing care. Based on the available data, PAHO found that “in 2013 and 2014, there were approximately 90,000 visits to public health facilities for mental health treatment each year. [but] visits increased by around 20% per year over the next two years, with nearly 108,000 visits in 2015 and 132,000 in 2016. ”

Similarly, the Caribbean Policy Research Institute (CAPRI) found that in 2019, child referral clinics (which fall under the Department of Health and Welfare) reported having “83,017 new clients and 502,685 cases of follow-up visits for the elderly and new patients.

I recognize that some work has been done, including improving access to services and greater focus at the community level, as well as the introduction of a national mental health strategic plan for 2020-2025. Also, I think some drugs are accessible through the National Health Fund.

However, as CAPRI notes in its Mind The Gap report which focused on the mental health needs of children, “the satisfaction of this need has been slowed down by insufficient resources, poor data management, a governance framework. fragmented, archaic legislation and a shortage of mental health services. professionals. “


I know a lot of people who have been diagnosed with mental illness, but they are among the privileged few who can afford private psychological and psychiatric care, which starts at $ 5,000. The cost of some drugs is exorbitant. The public health system is overloaded.

Greater attention coupled with increased budget allocations is needed to better meet the mental health needs of the population. We must continue to work on improving access and affordability if we really take this issue seriously.

Lanvell Blake, a mental health advocate, gives some great advice:

• The suicide hotline must be more accessible (the 10-digit number cannot be memorized).

• More peer support work, starting with schools and churches.

• More trauma-based justice and healing work.

• It is important to note that community mental health services need more money to provide more psychologists, with more health centers offering counseling services, which reduces the waiting time and the time for referral. the Rendez Vous.

If we do it right, the results will be good for individuals, their families and loved ones, and for the country as a whole. For example, according to PAHO, “For every Jamaican dollar invested in clinical treatments for anxiety, Jamaica can expect Jamaican $ 5.5 in return.

– Jaevion Nelson is an advocate for human rights, economic and social justice and inclusive development. Email your comments to [email protected] and [email protected], or tweet @jaevionn

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