Harming a loved one may be associated with mental illness

In recent months there have been several reprehensible stories of violence in families – domestic violence, intimate partner violence, emotional, verbal and physical abuse and sadly some acts of violence have resulted in the murder of children. This week, Family and Faith Magazine searches for answers by examining the impact of mental health on violent behaviour.

We asked noted counselling psychologist, Andre Allen Casey about some of the signs that a person’s mental wellbeing is compromised. He explained that stressful and traumatic events can trigger mental illness in a person with a vulnerability to develop a mental disorder. He indicated that if you want to determine if your mental wellbeing is compromised you must look at how well you are managing stress and if you have emotional, physical or behavioural stress overload.

SIGNS OF STRESS

“You need to look at the cognitive signs of stress – cognitive signs may be memory problems, inability to concentrate, poor judgement, constant worry. The emotional symptoms would include agitation, short temper, inability to relax, feeling overwhelmed, sense of loneliness, low energy. Physical problems can be like impotence, low levels of libido, inability to experience organism, digestive problems, gas, diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, chest pain, back aches, awareness of heartbeat, high blood pressure, tingling and numbness in the hands or feet, menstrual disturbances and hormonal imbalance,” the experienced counselor at Family Life Ministries listed.

Allen-Casey also pointed to behavioural problems triggered by stress overload such as “separating yourself from others, sleeping too much, procrastinating responsibilities, taking drugs to relax, nervous habits like pacing, biting nails, poor performance and accident proneness.”

Family life can be impacted

Of course, all these symptoms will have a direct impact on family life. “Parenting can be impacted because you have poor judgment. Your work can be impacted which affect how efficiently and effectively you provide for your family. Your social life is going to be impacted because people don’t want to be around you because of your constant mood swings,” Allen-Casey outlined, adding that “as a result of all of these things we can develop mental health disorders; the stress overload can matriculate into a mental disorder.”

Mental disorders include conditions such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders and antisocial personality disorder, among others. Characterized by a lack of conscience, antisocial personality disorder can affect not only families but also the entire society. “So, people who have this disorder are prone to criminal behaviour. They believe victims are weak and deserve to be taken advantage of. They tend to lie and steal, they are careless with money, they take action without thinking about consequences. They are oftentimes aggressive, and they are more concerned about their needs than the needs of others,” Allen-Casey articulated.

Can the killing of a loved one be a mental health issue?

We therefore asked the counselor if the recent spate of men killing their partners and loved ones is a mental health issue. Allen-Casey stated that “the killing of partners and loved ones can be associated with a mental health issues but unless an assessment is made, we can’t definitively state that it is so.”

Notwithstanding, he noted that “a person who is schizophrenic can be prone to doing something like that. A person who has borderline personality disorder can do that and a person who is depressed. Remember that depression speaks to confused thinking, prolonged sadness or irritability. Depression speaks to extreme highs and lows, excessive fears, worries and anxieties, seeing things that are not there, hallucinating (which is also akin to schizophrenia), growing inability to cope with daily problems and activities, suicidal thoughts. So, if you see that your partners possess some of these things then we are saying you need to do something about it to protect yourself,” he warned.  

Allen-Casey is advising persons to report violent behaviour to the respective authorities and crisis centres. Persons can also reach out to Family Life Ministries (Tel 876-926-8101) for counselling support.

The experienced family therapist and several others including Former NFL Pro Athlete Jay Barnett and Dr. Winston De La Haye will participate in a timely conference on mental health titled: Vital Signs Mental Health Conference on June 1 and 2 at the Emmanuel Apostolic Church. For more information on the conference visit http://www.vitalsignsjamaica.com.

In the coming weeks we will attempt to explore how faith can impact mental wellbeing.

Comment below or send an email to familyandfaithmagazine@gmail.com

Shelly-Ann Harris is author of God’s Woman and The Goodies on Her Tray. She is also Founder of Family and Faith Magazine, blogger, podcaster, women’s advocate and a media, communication, change management expert.

The ‘Beautiful View’ – Celebrating God’s Helpers at Bellevue Hospital

Ask the ordinary Jamaican what comes to mind when you say the word, Bellevue, and typically they offer references to a ‘madhouse’, or a place where you get a tin of milk in exchange for carrying in a mentally unstable relative.

But the French word actually means ‘beautiful view,’ and that is certainly the approach Bellevue Hospital’s dedicated social workers have adopted when it comes to serving those in their care. They are indeed God’s helpers who work tirelessly towards creating a ‘beautiful life’ for persons living with a mental illness by reconnecting them to their family as well as community and government services.

Now, in celebration of Social Work Month, Family and Faith Magazine in partnership with the Jamaica Broilers Group is pleased to highlight the high calling of the dedicated social workers at Bellevue Hospital.

DSC_0027
Dedicated social workers at Bellevue Hospital

“I didn’t choose social work, it chose me,” emphasized Mrs. Alleen Smith-Roberts, Medical Social Worker at Bellevue Hospital when asked why she chose the profession, adding that she finds great joy in helping persons with a mental illness to reconnect with their family. “You find that you have lots of persons in our society who are unable to ‘connect’, they are just existing, they are not sure where’s their place and as social workers we help persons to get there,” Mrs. Smith-Roberts explained with conviction.

In addition to ‘finding their place,’ helping clients to secure and maintain employment and access key government services, are other vital goals for social workers. After over twenty-four years in the profession, Barbara McKoy knows quite a bit about human behaviour. She told Family and Faith Magazine that “anyone can become mentally ill; it is not a respecter of persons,” pointing out, for example, that sometimes financial pressure can be traumatic for patients.

“I have a case of a gentleman who was separated from his family. He came into the hospital. He was really a terror to his family. His children didn’t want to have anything to do with him; his wife didn’t want to have anything to do with him because he was so terrible and I was able to assist him with getting his pension and it sort of brought him around because basically his traumatic conditions were brought about by the fact that he doesn’t have the money to spend. So he was really giving everybody a hard time and since he was able to get that pension I haven’t seen him being admitted for a while; he takes his medication, he calls me regularly to keep me updated on what is happening and he seems to be getting on well with his family,” she recounted, smiling.

DSC_0043

Aside from providing this type of ongoing support, for the past 3 years during social work month, the Bellevue social workers, treat patients with special Care Packages filled with personal items, toiletries, non-perishable food and The Best Dressed Chicken from the Jamaica Broilers Group. The company’s Group Public Relations Programmes Officer, Danah Cameron, explained why they were happy to partner with the social workers at Bellevue. “To us [the work they do] emulates who Christ is in such a magnificent way, they truly give of themselves, they speak of their patients as if they are speaking of family, they have such a heart, such a warmth towards these people, it really is moving.”

DSC_0038

Of course, both patients and social workers are also quite moved by the heartfelt gesture of kindness from their sponsors. “Our patients were more than excited and appreciative to get that extra nugget in their bag, so we thank our sponsors for their help each year and those who came on board with us to make this month an extra special month, not just for us but our patients, because its gives us great joy in giving back,” remarked Mrs. Smith-Roberts.

Senior Social Worker, Jessica Tyghter-Shaw also expressed gratitude to the Jamaica Broilers Group not only for the goodies provided, but also for their heart for community. “We appreciate your assistance, we appreciate you coming out of your offices and coming on the road and interacting with the people and showing that love and genuineness for the people.”

DSC_0086

Other notable sponsors that supported the initiative include Jamaica Biscuit Company, Cals, Lasco and Jamaica Baking Company.

In addition to the efforts of social workers and sponsors, family and friends have an important role to play in creating a better, beautiful life for patients. In fact, their support is key to ensuring that persons with mental illness stay well.

“Oftentimes the first thing that happens when somebody has a mental illness is that families are nowhere to be found, friends are nowhere to be found and so it is really them against this whole big wide world. So, I am encouraging persons, still be a part of their lives, they need you, they need us, they need a family, they need a friend, they need persons around them,” insisted Mrs. Tyghter-Shaw.

“A lot of them are out there and they are being treated in such manner they run come back to Bellevue when Bellevue don’t have the space for them. They probably don’t need to be hospitalized but because they are running away from the treatment in their community they come to Bellevue for refuge,” Miss McKoy lamented. Echoing this sentiment, Mrs. Robert-Smith urges communities not to ostracize them. “No man is an island, the more support that individual has, the better. The propensity of them staying well is greater with more support,” she admonished.

When families fail to play their role however, social workers become the extended family for persons living with a mental illness, which of course requires an added measure of grace. It is therefore no surprise that Mrs. Tyghter-Shaw is keen to declare that she gets her strength from God – “He is the great Teacher, He is the one that taught us how to do social work, He is the best social worker,” she declared with passion.

Her faith certainly mirrors the Jamaica Broilers’ motivation for serving the community. “At our core we are a poultry company, we focus on agribusiness, we are vertically integrated. I could talk on and on about that, but what we want Jamaica to know is that the heart; at the core, we believe in Jesus Christ, we believe in His mission, and His mission becomes our mission in terms of how we serve our community. Our partnership with Bellevue Hospital in going out into the community has helped us to exemplify that,” Mrs. Cameron declared.

No doubt the partnership of families, communities and good corporate citizens, will continue to assist Bellevue in creating a more beautiful life for persons living with a mental illness.

Comment below or send an email to familyandfaithmagazine@gmail.com