Chairman of the Mental Health Commission, Rev. Dr. Marcus Lashley (right), in conversation with Minister of Helath, Donville Inniss, at a recent meeting. (FP)

Persons who suffer with mental illness seem to have a curious attraction to the church.

This was asserted by Chairman of the Mental Health Commission, Rev. Dr. Marcus Lashley, as he addressed a recent Mental Health 101 Series at the Pan American Health Organisation.

He noted that the Mental Health Commission of the Ministry of Health was planning to train a number of clergy so that they would be better equipped to deal with those with mental illness and other mental health challenges.

The clinical psychologist by profession, told participants that clergy were more likely, than the average citizen, to come into contact with such individuals, on a regular basis.

"Sadly, in terms of training, not enough of our clergy are given specific training in noting and responding to persons with all kinds of challenges, including mental health. Sometimes, some of the training we go through… we tend to forget and we need refreshers.

"We automatically do things in relating to people that sometimes betray even the training we’ve got and it speaks to the need for a greater degree of sensitivity among our clergy in this area. People come to us by virtue of pastoral care and we are committed to dealing with those with various challenges, including those with mental health challenges," Dr. Lashley observed.

He disclosed that the Commission was in the process of drafting information which would be used in the training process. Some of the key areas that will be examined are: the care of Alzheimer’s patients and those with Parkinson’s Disease; the special needs population, including children with autism; occupational stress; advocacy for the mentally ill and the legal aspects of mental health.

According to the Chairman, clergy will be selected from various denominations to participate in a full day of training. "They will then be expected to disseminate the information to their respective denominations and congregations. The training will also target constituency councils in an effort to have advocates for those with mental health issues on the councils," he added.

In addition, he revealed there would soon be a national registry set up for people who suffer from diseases like Alzheimer’s and who have a tendency to wander from their homes. He said it would be called the Wandering Registry and will monitor persons with mental health challenges. This registry will also provide pastoral care for these individuals and assistance in the event of a natural disaster.


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