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June 3, 2011
Star Features


Laws protecting the mentally ill

Mentally ill persons who roam the streets are often abused by adults and children who, at times, stone them.

A returning resident disclosed that she witnessed a young man beating his mother who is mentally ill.

"I was shocked to see this young man beating his mentally ill mother with a piece of stick," she disclosed.

"I had to call to him and threaten to report him to the police before he stopped ill-treating his mother. The woman attends a clinic but it seems she refuses to take her medication, and so she goes out on the street sometimes and curses people who are passing by.

roam the streets

"Now this woman is behaving in this manner because she is mentally ill, but the problem I notice in Jamaica, since I returned from England three years now, is that people are always abusing the mentally ill people, especially those who roam the streets. There are times I actually witness adults and children stoning these mentally ill people.

"Those who are being so cruel to them should bear in mind that anybody can get a nervous breakdown or go into a serious state of depression. These people are not responsible for being mentally ill, in the same way that a person is not responsible for having certain diseases.

"It is time we Jamaicans wake up and stop being abusive to each other. I am really very said when I see the way in which some people treat the mentally ill, and I believe that people who witness such abuses should report the matter to the police.

"I must say I did report the incident to the police when I saw the young man beating his mother. The police warned him and I have not seen him beating his mother since that time," she added.

Mentally ill people should not be abused by anyone and those doing so must be aware they can be arrested and charged.

Section 15 of the Mental Health Act gives the police the power to take a mentally ill person who is found wandering in a public place, or wandering at large, to a psychiatric facility for treatment.

Section 16 of the Act states also that "a mental-health officer may, at any reasonable time, enter and inspect premises if he has reasonable cause to believe that any person who is mentally disordered and in need of proper care is on those premises, and where as a result of the inspection he finds any such person aforesaid, the mental health officer may, with the assistance of a constable if necessary, cause that person to be admitted and detained in a public psychiatric facility for treatment".

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