October 15, 2010
Doc says ‘treatment gap’ in mental health

Psychiatrist at the Mental Health Centre Dr. Amrie Morris has identified a “treatment gap” in relation to the early diagnosis of mental disorders here.{{more}}

Morris, during an interview with SEARCHLIGHT on Wednesday, October 13, 2010, at the Mental Health Centre at Glen, said that there is a gap that exists, as most persons associate mental illness with severe chronic disorders such as schizophrenia, and ignore other mental illnesses such as mood disorders.

“There is a treatment gap for those who have mood disorders, anxiety, Obsessive Compulsive Disorders, children who have Attention Deficit Disorders, and those are the ones who we are not reaching,” she said.

Morris added that the vision for the Mental Health Centre is to have more community outreach. Currently there are five mental health community clinics at Georgetown, Mesopotamia, Her Majesty’s Prison, at the Mental Health Centre at Glen and the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital.

Morris stated that part of the community outreach will include the training of Primary Health Care staff at community clinics and district clinics to deal with cases of mild depression or mild cases of psychosis.

“The initial push is for training of health staff so that they can help in identifying and diagnosing the earlier signs of mental illnesses, instead of waiting until persons are acutely ill,” she said. Morris added that persons are afraid to come to the Mental Health Centre because of the stigma attached to the centre and its patients.

Stating that most mental disorders begin at the adolescent stage, Morris added that contributing factors to mental disorders include Bio Psycho social reasons such as hereditary, mental diseases or problems during birth.

Drug or substance abuse, Morris stated, is also a contributing factor. “Cannabis use increases risks of psychosis. We are not saying that marijuana necessarily causes the illness. We are just saying it is one of the precipitating factors for those who are ill,” Morris said. She added that a chaotic childhood or anything that puts a person under chronic stress can bring about a mental disorder.

Commenting on the recent suicide of eleven year old Aldan Richards, Morris said that the lesson to be learned from the incident is that “children’s mental illness issues are multifaceted.” Morris stated that it is not just the case of a child not doing well in school that may cause him or her to commit suicide. “There must have been other things in the child’s life that made him feel hopeless,” she said.

She added that there is a need for counselors in the education system to deal with such matters as well as teachers who can deal with children with learning disabilities, to assign special time to those children so that they do not become stressed.

Morris also gave a few ways in which family members can identify if their relatives are suffering from a mental illness or mood disorder and may need help. She mentioned that the person may become withdrawn, lose their appetite, have a change in their pattern of communication or may talk of suicide. (OS)