I believe Prime Minister Andrew Holness is correct when he said that a lot of the crime and violence being experienced by Jamaicans are rooted in mental health issues.
All human behaviour is learnt; therefore, a change in behaviour requires a change in thinking, which is a function of the mind. The vast majority of our violent crimes, including murders, are committed by mainly young males between the ages of 15 and 25 years old. The human mind undergoes a significant process of social adjustment and adaptation during this period of development.
A lot of our young males are not properly socialised or mentored and as a consequence they suffer from poor anger management skills, lack of critical thinking skills, and lack of emotional intelligence. In many instances they have displayed signs of mental health weakness from their early teen years at school. These boys were never treated, but were instead labelled as "dark", "fool-fool", or "hot-headed". A closer examination of these young men's time at school will likely reveal that they were regular violators of the school rules and displayed signs of uncontrollable anger.
Our schools will have to be empowered with the human resources to better identify and treat with students, especially boys who present with mental health issues, such as poor anger management, lack of critical thinking skills, or lack of emotional intelligence. Something has to be wrong mentally for approximately a quarter of the murders committed being attributable to domestic disputes.
While I support the use of states of public emergency as a short-term method to help cauterise the crime rate, I don't believe crime can be solved by brute force or the suspension of individual rights and freedoms, but rather through proper scientific and coordinated policing and social interventions. However, a crisis situation requires a crisis response.
I believe that as a country we need to pay greater attention to at-risk youth and mental health issues among young people. I know from personal experience with children I have taught or influenced through mentorship as a community leader that relationships built on support followed by accountability are more likely to result in lasting positive change in behaviour rather than just a temporary suppression of negative behaviour due to fear of harsh consequences.
Therefore, fostering immersion in an environment that promotes and models moral behaviour through mentorship has always been a viable option to explore. The mentorship of at-risk youth is paramount. It is time we reimagine the role of the army and use it as a source of greater good to mentor and prepare them for a life of service to community and country.
The use of force and suppression will not break the back of crime as most violence producers place a small premium on their own lives. We have to target their way of thinking and influence them positively. Our schools have universal appeal as most boys go to school up to age 18 years. Therefore, any workable crime plan must have the input of our schools.
Let us get the social workers and psychologists to work on the mental health of our youth and reclaim the soul of Jamaica, land we love. Our youth are hurting and hurting people are likely to hurt other people.
The word is always love.
Andre A O Wellington
Mental health patient and advocate