Looking at Mental Health in Jamaica

Looking at Mental Health in Jamaica

Mental Health in Jamaica

Mental Health is about an individual’s cognitive, behavioural and emotional state. Mental health plays an essential role in how individuals think. It’s critical to the way of processing information and make decisions. Mental health dictates how you feel. It highlights our emotional attachment to or detached from a particular event. Mental health commands how you react to certain stimuli.

A person with poor or degrading mental health is known as having a mental disorder. As a matter of fact, mental disorders affect an individual, their families, and close friends and impact society and the economy. People with mental illnesses are less productive at work. Correspondingly, reducing productivity causes them to leave the workforce earlier as they have no real contribution to improvements of policies.

According to National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI,2020), some common signs of mental illness include;

  • Excessive worrying or fear
  • Feeling excessively sad or low
  • Extreme mood changes
  • Confusion
  • Problems concentrating and learning
  • Avoiding friends and social activities
  • Difficulties understanding or relating to other people
  • Changes in sex drive
  • Difficulty perceiving reality (delusions or hallucinations)
  • Overuse of substances like alcohol or drugs
  • Multiple physical ailments without obvious causes (such as headaches, stomach aches,
  • Vague and ongoing “aches and pains”)
  • Thinking about suicide
  • An inability to carry out daily activities or handle everyday problems and stress

Mental disorder affects persons of all demographics. Therefore, good mental health is critical.

Mental Health
Photo borrowed from Difference.guru

Mental Health Stigma

Unfortunately, there is a stigma that surrounds mental illness in the Caribbean. Sadly, having a mental illness is often regarded as ‘white people sickness’. Society shuns and generalizes people who are diagnosed with a mental illness as ‘Mad”.  Likewise, the stigma causes scepticism and fear of judgement for people who might not feel well and their family. In turn, the ones that need the help hardly seek it.  Consequently, the illness goes unchecked and can lead to many negative experiences.

Some Jamaicans perceive counselling as ‘airing their dirty laundry to strangers’. Among far too many Jamaicans, the belief is that ‘nobody nuh affi know seh something wrong’.  Announcing that you feel mentally unstable is a weakness in some circles, especially for men. Far too often, society teaches our males to ‘toughen up’ and to ‘hol it like a G’. This type of teaching causes conditions to escalate and might lead to suicide. On the positive side, Jamaica has a lower suicide rate than other countries. That being said, prevention increases if the individuals receive treatment. Notably, there is a higher rate of men committing suicide than women.

Therefore, we must understand that having a mental illness doesn’t make a person crazy. There are several forms of mental disorders. We should emphasize our efforts to educate the public on mental health and healthily handle everyday stressful events.


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