Barrett Hall tragedy highlights importance of projects like Problem Management Plus
The lead story in yesterday’s Jamaica Observer is one of the most gut-wrenching we have come across in our 30 years of reporting news.
If the sequence of events, as told to us by Mr Dweight Brown, are accurate, we can’t imagine the immense pain that he and his family, especially his eight-year-old stepdaughter who witnessed it all, must now be feeling.
Losing a loved one to death is never easy. It is worse when that loved one is a child, especially a baby.
Today, Mr Brown, his family, and their neighbours in Barrett Hall, St James, are dealing with the death of his five-month-old daughter, Destiny, who was allegedly thrown from the roof of his two-storey house by her 28-year-old mother.
The tragedy, he told us, resulted from a domestic dispute which also saw the baby’s mother allegedly making attempts to take her own life.
Based on Mr Brown’s account, his appeals to his child’s mother to not attempt suicide delayed his departure from the house with the baby to hospital. The trauma of that alone is unimaginable.
We make no judgment on the source of the dispute. What we are sure of, though, is that everyone involved in this tragedy is in need of serious counselling which, we suggest, should include reaching out to residents in the community to avoid stigmatisation of the accused mother.
We have made the point before in this space that a major challenge in this society is to get the message across that someone seeking or receiving counselling from a mental health specialist, a friend, or respected community member, doesn’t mean the individual is “mad”.
While we acknowledge that there are people among us with mental health challenges, but we will never be able to adequately deal with the problem if we sweep it under the carpet, as we have been inclined to do for so long.
In recent times, Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton made a call for an “all society” effort to deal with mental health issues as “no single group or subgroup” can manage what he labelled “the greatest health challenge in society today”.
It is with that in mind that we support the Problem Management Plus (PM+) project under which volunteers are trained to help their neighbours work through problems such as anxiety, stress, and mild depression.
So far, we have been told, 120 such volunteers, including individuals from faith-based and community organisations, have been trained through a partnership of the Ministry of Health and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).
The project is particularly useful in the Jamaican context, given that fully qualified mental health specialists are few and far between.
It is, as we have said before, an important building block in getting people at the grass-roots, community level attuned to the idea that mental health challenges should not be cause for shame and disgrace; and that all of us are vulnerable.
Two months ago we pointed to a comment made by Mr Ian Stein, PAHO/WHO representative for Jamaica, that makes perfect sense. “We need to foster more community engagement,” he said. “Communities can foster connectedness and act as a powerful source of support. In times of distress, being able to lean on a community can be an essential aspect of self-care…”
Mr Brown, his family, and most likely Barrett Hall, will need the kind of intervention available through Problem Management Plus. The State, we expect, will quickly offer that assistance.