I spent a few hours at Bellevue Hospital in Kingston this week, for the launch of the Ministry of Health and Wellness’ Mental Health Campaign. Despite the heat and humidity, it was a cheerful experience. I had harbored an image of Bellevue (despite its pretty name) as a glowering, Victorian-style edifice. Later, I got the impression from Jamaicans that it was run-down, depressing, and a place to be avoided.
That aura has been dispelled – completely. I realized that Bellevue – Jamaica’s only mental health institution – is, in fact, not a big scary place. Not in the least. Nor is it a place to make jokes about, by the way (as people often do, unkindly). Approximately 800 mentally ill people live there. It is a pleasant compound, dotted with lignum vitae trees. A mockingbird sang. The buildings were neat, long and low. I must confess that this was the first time I had been there.
Now I am happy to read that members of the Jamaican diaspora in the United States have donated US$5,534.21 to the Hospital. This was the collection from the Independence Day church service in Washington, DC.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade reports:
The funds are earmarked for social services to support aging patients who are unable to return home. It will also assist patients in transition, who are receiving employment and skills training, to facilitate independent, non-institutionalized living.
The first category, I learned, is a major problem for Bellevue – and other public hospitals; families are for various reasons unable to take back their aging members. Perhaps they cannot cope financially or emotionally; or they do not have space for them. There are all kinds of personal reasons. The result of this, however, is that there are many (even hundreds) of patients at Bellevue who could, in fact, go home – but do not.
The Ministry notes:
In her letter to the institution, the Jamaican Ambassador to the United States, H.E. Audrey Marks, noted: “We are cognizant of the challenges and existing financial constraints affecting Bellevue Hospital, which inter alia, serves a large population of outpatient to acute residential care patients.”
Bellevue Hospital deserves our support. Lots of it. That day, I met staff and patients, gathered for this special event. I met some Cuban workers and told them “Muchas gracias” (my Spanish being extremely limited). I met the dedicated Chairman, David Wan. I met the smiling Director of Patient Services, who was so happy to welcome guests. I also met community workers, including Ms. Fay Robinson-Tee, a counselor and motivational speaker from Clarendon. Oh, and did I mention it was hot? So very hot!
Bellevue Hospital is on Twitter @BVHofficialja and they are also on Facebook. Get in touch with them today. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org (876) 928-1380-7 Fax : (876) 928-1236.
The new Mental Health helpline is expected to be up next Monday, October 14. It will be manned 24 hours a day by professionals.