Vice-president (VP) of the young professional arm of the governing Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), Generation 2000 (G2K), Tia Ferguson, is calling for an end to the stigma surrounding mental-health issues.
Ferguson cited that the recent case of a 14-year-old girl allegedly slain by a 21-year-old male, whom it is claimed she had a romantic relationship, has brought the issue of mental illness back to the forefront in Jamaica.
“One of the key occurrences was the [alleged] perpetrator's expression to his father that he would end both his own life and that of the young lady if he could not have her. As unfortunate as it is, many Jamaicans tend not to bat an eye at the concept of mental health until an event such as this one occurs. Over time, however, the focus fizzles out after each incident and people seemingly return to their nonchalant perceptions of what is undoubtedly a grave issue,” Ferguson stated.
In addition, she noted that one of the key indicators of the need for a less-stigmatised approach to mental-health issues is its prevalence.
“In 2017, the Psychiatric Nursing Aide Association of Jamaica indicated that at least three to four of every 10 Jamaicans are suffering from a psychiatric or mental disorder. Even you could be dealing with one or more of them without realising,” the VP said.
Continuing, she explained that, “If this problem is affecting 30 per cent to 40 per cent of the population, you can agree that it almost deserves your attention. The Nursing Aides Association also projected the doubling or tripling of mental-health problems by 2032 as Jamaica is cited as a stressful place to live, with way too few persons working in the mental-health industry.”
Noting that the Government has a role to play in ending this kind of stigma, Ferguson also said the general public should play a role as well.
“It is time for you to act in reducing and eventually mitigating the current downplayed perception of mental-health issues. The first piece of the puzzle is the stigmatisation. It is at the centre of the self-esteem barrier that is preventing a desire to seek assistance,” Ferguson stated.
She also added that people need to become more accustomed to speaking about their “mental truths.
“This is the time to normalise sharing experiences, which allows us and others to acknowledge the reality of mental-health issues. We also need to actively educate ourselves and others where we can. Should you become privy to reliable information surrounding diagnoses, approaches to treatment, or any other aspect of mental struggles, share it for the sake of understanding,” she explained.
— Candice Haughton