Mental illness in Jamaica is real

May 25, 2018

Mental illness in Jamaica is a very real thing. It's almost like every day you see a new 'mad man' on the streets.

These days, there are a few more women, too, and it speaks to the troubles that Jamaicans endure each day in their lives and their seeming reluctance to acknowledge that they need help.

I don't know where this idea comes from, this concept that if you need psychological help, then you are beyond redemption.

I don't know if it's pride or ignorance, but whatever those factors are, there needs to be a strong and sustained public education programme to let people know that it is OK to feel mental strain and that it is OK to ask for help.

For the duration of my time on this planet wherever I have lived, I have seen people lose their minds, which, in too many instances means that they will be abandoned by their families and invariably end up on the streets.

Mind you, some people aren't 'mad' when they end up on the street, but the sheer embarrassment, the shame of it all, ends up driving them out of their minds.

We go through a lot in this country - poverty, violence, fear, and insecurity.




An argument over 'foolishness' can end up with someone being killed. That, for me, is a sign of an unstable mind.

People can't have an argument anymore without coming to blows. It is why I have stopped because you never know whose mind is at the edge of the cliff, and a confrontation, no matter how mild, sends them over.

It's scary. It really is.

But for us to start to address these issues, we have to first acknowledge that we have these problems.

The conditions under which many Jamaicans live, especially these days when not even out in the country is safe, would drive most people out of their minds.

Living in squalor, not knowing where the next meal is coming from, going through each day uncertain if you will make it, fearing gunmen and the police with the same level of trepidation is very unsettling. Just thinking about it makes me nervous.

For those living in more peaceful environs, price increases, job security, and rampant crime can also be as unsettling.

I feel that the path to a more mentally stable Jamaica will be a long one. A lot will have to change with regard to the respective environments in which we exist, and more important, our willingness to accept that when feeling mental strain, seeking help is not a crime.

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