We must be our brother’s keeper to combat mental illness

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Local and regional psychologists said that family and friends play a critical role in addressing depression.
“If you are depressed and you spend more time by yourself, then you’re going to become even more depressed, so getting out, watching a movie, just spending time with family [or] having dinner with family is important,” Jamaican Clinical Psychologist, Cheril Thompson said yesterday on OBSERVER AM.
“If a parent recognises that the child is depressed, it’s important for that parent to try to engage the child in the family activities. Don’t allow them to just go to their rooms and lock their door, because many depressed children selfharm, which means they may be cutting themselves or having suicidal thoughts.”
Also contributing to the discussion, was another Clinical Psychologist from Jamaica, Alicia Lewis, who, along with Thompson, identified the stigma surrounding mental illness in the Caribbean and stressed the role of family members.
Thompson added that people must dispel popular myths in order to combat mental illness.
“There’s a myth that if you ask someone if they’re feeling suicidal, then you’re putting thoughts in their head. That’s not true,” she said.
“It’s important for those who are dealing with people who are depressed to ask the persons if they are having thoughts of suicide.”
According to Lewis, depression that requires medical treatment or therapy is simply “an extended period of sadness which interferes with the duties that you [usually] participate in”.
Thompson advised people to be cautious of symptoms such as change in appetite and lack of interest in things that they used to like to do. She noted that a critical symptom is when people display lost hope.
Meantime, Antiguan-based tutor and psychologist, Helen Brodie added that public education is necessary to change current attitudes towards mental illness.
“Education is a big thing … but if you could get someone who knows about psychology, then you’d be able to educate people in understanding what it is,” Brodie said.
Brodie, who provides therapy to people affected with mental illness, told OBSERVER media that most of her clients are Europeans and Americans, while few are Antiguan — which she said shows a need for educating locals about what is depression. She said that depression is very easy to treat, but it has to be noticed by others and persons need to be aware that there are options available.
(More in today’s Daily Observer)

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