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Lessons to be Learned From Caribbean Treatment of Mental Health

Jamaica Observer
mental health

A Caribbean-born researcher here says there are lessons to be learned from the Caribbean’s treatment of mental health.

With Caribbean people in the United Kingdom (UK) nine times more likely than white British counterparts to be diagnosed with schizophrenia, a University of Manchester mental health researcher visited Jamaica and Barbados to find out what lessons can be learned.

Dawn Edge was funded by a which is designed to send UK citizens to other countries to “travel to learn and return to inspire” change to improve the lives of UK citizens. On the four week research visit, Edge spent time in hospitals and with community care teams, and lectured local students and health workers.

She was also invited to give evidence to the National Mental Health Commission in Barbados and brief the High Commissioners in both countries about her findings. “The treatment of mental health in the Caribbean can be quite different, but there are important similarities,” Edge said. “We’re all trying to work towards removing stigma and to make community and hospital care much more joined up,” she added. “This helps to save money and get people the care they need sooner and also reduces the burden of care.”

Edge pointed out that while on a visit with a community care team in Jamaica there was a difference in the turnaround time for treatment which can be as short as a few weeks, compared to months in the UK. According to the University of Manchester, this is an area she is keen to explore in future research projects.

“It would be good to examine clinical data to see whether those same patients may be back in treatment much sooner than in the UK,” Edge said. “However, there’s a lot to be said for cutting down the time which people spend away from their families, jobs and communities.”

The Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Fund was set up with the donations made by the public after the politician’s death in 1965.

Each year, it funds British citizens from all backgrounds to travel overseas in pursuit of new and better ways of tackling a wide range of the current challenges facing the UK. Successful applicants are known as Churchill Fellows for life. Following her visit, Edge said she has several new projects in development, which include capacity building and collaborating to develop research projects that examine Caribbean people’s mental health across the Diaspora.

“The Caribbean region is very different from the UK in terms of resources, but they are struggling with many of the same problems that we are here such as tackling stigma, reducing inequalities in accessing care and integrating mental and physical healthcare,” she said. “Anything we can do to build stronger links between the Caribbean, the UK, and colleagues researching Caribbean mental health in Canada and the US is going to have benefits for people’s mental health on both sides of the Atlantic.”

Published: April 26, 2015. By Jamaica Observer
Copyright © 2013 Jamaica Observer

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