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Hope for the mentally ill

Frederick Kelly: A CUMI success story

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

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EARLY one morning, Frederick Kelly left home in St James and set out for work on a construction site in St Ann.

He suffered a mental breakdown and, for weeks, he roamed the streets, eventually making his way back to St James. This was in 2002; he has not returned to his home since.

This is the theory put forward by mental health nurse Joy Crooks — one of the founding members of the Committee for the Upliftment of the Mentally Ill (CUMI) — who has been treating Kelly for the past 15 years.

According to a recent press release, CUMI is one of the organisations in Jamaica that tends to the needs of mentally ill individuals who have been displaced, or whose families simply cannot afford to care for them.

In 2002, a concerned citizen saw Kelly's state and contacted the Cornwall Regional Hospital (CRH). A dehydrated, confused and mute Kelly was then picked up.

His head was bound with barbed wire in an attempt to silence the voices he was hearing, his feet were swollen and his lips white from lack of water and food.

The release said Kelly remained on the psychiatric ward at the CRH for two years before he was handed over to CUMI, as none of his relatives could be located.

“When [Kelly] came [to CUMI], he was not coherent or able to give rational answers. It took many years [for him] to regain his speech,” Crooks is quoted as saying. “He put wires really tight around his head and those wires started to grow into the skin and the skull — it took a long time to heal after slowly removing the foreign bodies.

“He had many years of therapy to understand why he needed to take his medication. He can't remember everything from his past, but now he can express himself…and we can trust him to do daily errands for us, such as paying utility bills and taxes,” nurse Crooks continued.

Today, Kelly is CUMI's bearer and gardener. After months of therapy, he began speaking. A few years later he started to read and write. He remembers that he has two children, but cannot yet recall their names.

“I like CUMI a lot,” Kelly said. “I clean up the yard and I pay the bills downtown, and I like to work with Miss Joy.”

Nurse Crooks added: “Frederick is quite bright. He plays quiz, bingo and he can read and write. All these things have come back since he has been stable.”

Kelly is one of the lucky ones. He sleeps at the Refuge of Hope Night Shelter and attends CUMI daily.

However, other mentally ill individuals, according to the release, are left to roam the streets, without help. CUMI intervenes when it can, but today struggles to keep its doors open, as its operating costs continue to rise, the release continued.

To provide, food, clothing, medication, therapy, and the general operational costs for the organisation is approximately $6 million per year, the release said.

Each year CUMI hosts its major fund-raiser — CUMI Come Run — with the support of Running Events, Tryall Club and a host of corporate sponsors.

Its 11th staging is set for September 21 at Tryall Club, starting at 6:30 am.

This year CUMI is hoping to raise $4 million to bolster its trust and looks forward to the support to help reach its goal, the release said. Registration is now open for individuals to sign up online at runningeventsja.com.


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