By Romell Eubank
In Jamaica, we have for too long overlooked mental illnesses or mental health disorders. We only view persons on the streets eating out of garbage bins and doing other abnormal activities as mentally ill. We fail to understand that there are many types of mental disorders that are present within our society. Some of these disorders include: schizophrenia, depression, anxiety disorder, and bipolar disorder. Many persons have been bullied or killed and some have killed others and themselves. All these tragedies result because we as a society fail to understand what mental illness is and how to provide proper support to persons suffering from mental illness. There are many measures that we, as a society, can implement in order for us to become more educated and be able to give more support to individuals battling mental disorders.
Making it compulsory for educational institutions at every level to have courses or subjects directed at providing information on mental illnesses is a start. Institutions should begin teaching mental health awareness as early as grade two. Children must be taught how to deal and interact with persons affected by mental disorders. They must also be taught how to identify persons with these disorders and not only identify them but also identify the types of disorders. Educating children will also help them to find out if they are faced with any mental health disorders and be able to seek assistance with fighting and overcoming them.
Having mental health awareness taught as a course or subject will allow it to have a more significant impact than having it taught as a subset of another subject that focuses on many other topics or issues. There is a popular saying in Jamaica that says: “Ben di tree while it young, cause when it old it a go bruk.” Meaning: Discipline your children and teach them the right way when they are young, because trying to do it when they are older might be too late. In this context it’s teaching children mental health awareness from an early age, because when older it will be very hard to educate them about this issue.
Educating the general population daily through various forms of media is another measure. While educating children about mental health issues from an early age, we should use forms of media that make it easier for adults to become aware of mental health disorders. We can use it through mediums that we know most adults frequently engage with. These forms of media include: Newspapers for classic persons in society who appreciate reading, television for persons who prefer an audiovisual medium and social media for the younger generation and those who are young at heart. These mediums can be used strategically to promote mental health awareness amongst adults.
To better understand and overcome mental illnesses, education is key. Educate our children and adults. Education helps to prevent bullying and discrimination against persons with disorders. We all need to play our part. Too many persons are suffering secretly and sometimes their cases end in tragedy.
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