Valiant, Bellevue hope to change stigma surrounding mental health
Chief Executive Officer at the Bellevue Hospital Suzette Buchanan said when she first saw the music video for Valiant’s Mad Out she was immensely offended.
Images of persons dressed in tattered clothing, rummaging through garbage bins played right into the stereotype surrounding mental health patients, she thought.
But, having watched the video in its entirety, Buchanan revealed she had a ‘Eureka’ moment. Why not use this opportunity to engage the masses in talks surrounding mental health using one of dancehall’s hottest acts at the moment.
“When people think about a mental health patient they have a tendency to think that persons are torn, tattered, and they’re aggressive, running you down and screaming. But a mental health condition has several ways of manifesting itself,” Buchanan said at a specially organised seminar at Bellevue Hospital on Thursday.
“So, my first time hearing the song, my son ran to the room and said, ‘Mom, your favourite artiste has done a song, but I’m not too sure you’re gonna like this one.’
“I said to him: ‘Play it for me,’ and I was in fact offended. It was quite offensive.”
Buchanan went on to reveal that the video was particularly concerning, not because of her role at the psychiatric facility, but because she has a daughter who suffers from anxiety and bipolar disorder. For her, the video did nothing to steer people away from the usual picture people have in their minds.
It was there that she got the idea to invite Valiant to engage in a discussion that could educate the wider public on the issue.
It also helped that, as the entertainer’s track having garnered close to 4 million views in three weeks, Bellevue Hospital was now trending on Twitter. The latter she took as a clear opportunity to maximise the attention thrust upon the facility.
“We looked at the message at the end of the song, and we looked at how much the song was trending, and we said this would be the perfect opportunity to spread awareness. So I came and my team and I had a discussion, and they said it was the prime opportunity to use the song to reduce the stigma around mental health in Jamaica,” she said.
For Valiant, it was all strategy, and he was just waiting on someone to reach out and ask for his assistance in spreading the message through his platform.
The entertainer, who revealed he has a friend who suffers from schizophrenia, said he believes mental health in Jamaica isn’t addressed enough.
“There is a part in my video that I don’t think most people see. It says at the end, ‘It’s important to be respectful of those who may be struggling with mental illness.’ We want to use this music video to raise awareness and start conversations about mental health, so I’m glad we’re here,” he said.
“The team saw the vision from early and so we weren’t surprised. I don’t really understand the terms or the places, but I knew some type of mental health institute would have reached out. Mi work with strategy,” reasoned Valiant.
The strategy employed by both the facility and the artiste seems to be paying off. Buchanan revealed that individuals have already been using social media to reach out and ask for help.
“Bellevue Hospital recently asked, ‘Hey, are you ok?’ and people were flooding us with comments. That’s what we want. We want conversations, because mental illness is something society doesn’t want to talk about,” she said. “It was amazing the response we got from the tweet. We understand social media’s reach. I have people who have found my Facebook page and we’re engaging in conversation. People are asking for help and we’re providing them with the necessary steps to get assistance,” said Buchanan.
Valiant, for his part, expressed that he has succeeded in gaining the public’s attention as not only is Bellevue trending on social media, but users are engaging support staff at the facility and actively seeking help. The entertainer, therefore, challenged Bellevue Hospital and the powers that be to come up with even more ways to help those crying out for assistance.
“This now is where the big bosses and the Government should come in and take steps to create ways and opportunities for people to get the help they need without getting rejected when they do. Basically, when dem people here get help and come back, a start dem a start over, so mi want unnu fi create programmes or supmn fi help bring dem back into life and support them,” he said. “Mi want unnu to keep communication with the people fi hear what kind a support dem want and give them the help.”