Psychiatrist wants softer approach to deal with mental health issues

May 25, 2023

Dr Saphire Longmore, government senator and president of the Jamaica Psychiatric Association, says the need for assistance for persons with mental issues is often underestimated because one cannot see the direct effect on their mental health unless it is severe.

"Let's say you saw somebody is having a heart attack, you are not going to jump on his chest or stress him out in the moment. Instead, you are going to try to apply intervention and to save his life. That intervention has to be applied by somebody who is trained to do so. So we tend to sometimes trivialise mental health problems because we think it is just talk therapy," she said.

Longmore spoke to THE STAR a day after a video emerged of what appears to be a mentally distressed young man sitting at the edge of a gully in the Corporate Area. A bystander is heard cursing the man that he would die should he decide to jump.

"Dis a sign ya, di man wah jump offa di gully. Two time him make fi jump off. Look how far, oye look how far yuh ago go mi G. If yuh ever jump down a dat 'blood***** yuh dead yuh hear?" the man was heard saying. Other persons were heard scolding the bystander about his approach. Offering what appeared to be words of comfort and reassurance to the man while rubbing his head, a policeman and his colleagues assisted the distressed man to safety. The bystander was later heard offering words of encouragement to the young man.

"Everything good sonny man, everything good mi son. Good yute man, come mi youth nuh badda make dem stress yuh out bredda. Jah Jah know dog, life ruff enuh bredda. Jah know youth," he said.

Longmore said that should a member of the public be faced with a similar situation, a better way to assist the affected person is let them know that they are not alone.

"The ABCs and responses that you would do in the emergency moments should include establishing with the individual that you are there for them. The person is in that state likely because they have lost hope and is stressed out. But once there is hope, there is a chance that you can change for the better," she said.

Longmore said that aggravating and encouraging the individual to self harm as a means of dissuading them from committing or attempting suicide is never the answer.

"As best you can, call for the trained help, but if that is not possible, call for any help that is available. Ascertain whether or not the individual has reason to not harm themselves. However, mental health management requires professional training," she said. Longmore suggested that persons try to get the next of kin's contact information.

"You might hear dem say 'mi nuh have nobody' so respond and tell them that you are there and you are going to try and get them in a better place. Do not aggravate and encourage the person to harm themselves. You might think it is a way of you trying to make them appreciate how illogical it is, but when the person is in that altered state, they may well listen and reflex the act," Longmore added.

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