Teacher wins battle against mental illness
It was a normal Monday morning. Paulette Bromfield got dressed for work and stumbled to the breakfast table as she had done every morning of her 18-year teaching career. The only difference this morning was that she never felt hungry.
"As I sat at the table my appetite suddenly went and I began to feel uneasy, anxious and I couldn't remain still," Bromfield said.
The retired teacher told THE STAR that her sister advised her to seek help from a psychologist, and after two visits, the psychologist realised that her anxiety level was too high.
"She said that I needed to see a psychiatrist and I was diagnosed with major depression," Bromfield said.
According to Bromfield, the days before her diagnosis were long and dark.
"I didn't want to bathe, I didn't want to brush my teeth, I didn't care if my bed was made and I didn't want to eat. All I wanted to do was lock myself in the room," Bromfield recalled.
She said her husband, who was the main breadwinner of the family, had died a year earlier and this, according to her doctor, had plunged her into major depression.
Bromfield explained that her depressed state took a toll on her children.
"My children were worried because they were not used to seeing me in that state. I was also worried that my condition might have prevented them from living their lives, because they were young people at the time," Bromfield explained.
"I remember praying every night before I sleep to get me out of the state," Bromfield recounted.
With the help of her psychiatrist, Dr E. Anthony Allen, and her discipline, Bromfield recovered and was able to re-enter the classroom.
"While I was depressed, I wasn't my usually talkative self, and I remember shouting in the classroom one day and a student said, 'Miss, you are back'," Bromfield said.
According to Allen, the reason why so many Jamaicans attach a stigma to the mental illness is because they fail to differentiate the self from the brain.
"The brain is an organ like the heart, and if there is a problem then it will cause it not to function properly. If there is a problem with a part of a car, you would fix it. You don't throw away the entire car. It is not the self that is disordered, it is the brain," Allen reasoned.
He further explains that people do not understand that patients can recover. "Because they don't understand that persons can recover with medication and the proper rehabilitation, they feel they will be ill for life," Allen said.
INADEQUACY OF CHEMICALS
"In the case of depression, it is an inadequacy of chemicals to a certain section of the brain that caused it," Allen said.
"So what the medication does is increase the amount of these neurotransmitters and help to compensate for the chemical imbalance so that the brain can go back to normal functions."
Allen is calling on Jamaicans to accept mental illness as any other illness.
"Acceptance and tolerance is the way forward. If people begin to accept these illnesses then we can begin treat them," Allen said.
At the end of the interview with THE STAR, Bromfield had one message for persons with mental illnesses. "Don't give up. Don't ever give up," he said.