Senator warns of mental health issues during pandemic

GOVERNMENT Senator Dr Sapphire Longmore says she is concerned about the mental state of Jamaican teenagers and young adults amid the current COVID-19 pandemic.

Senator Longmore, a psychiatrist and breast cancer survivor, took the opportunity during the motion for the adjournment last Friday to raise the issue, noting that the country was celebrating both Mental Health Week and Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

She said that while there has been focus on the vulnerability of elderly people, she is also concerned about the effect of the pandemic on teens and young adults — some of whom are suicidal.

“It is so difficult for them to refrain from social interaction. But, I would suggest that parents of these teens and young adults make a greater effort to speak with them, and let them understand and to enable whatever safe interaction they can have with their companions,” she said.

“It is a critical thing, and I am concerned about the long-term effects that they may be having on this significant population,” she told the Senate.

According to the second-term senator, she is also concerned about the supply of medication to assist mentally challenged Jamaicans.

She noted that a lot of the medications are imported into Jamaica from India and Indonesia sources, but there are already signs that because of the effect of the pandemic there may be unavailability issues.

“Some of the raw materials for the manufacture of some of these drugs are slow in acquisition, and so the actual availability of some of the critical drugs that we will need is very, very questionable,” she stated.

The senator said this means that “the ‘mad men’ that persons would ordinarily be able to stabilise and keep in a somewhat functional situation, because of the lack of availability of some of these medicines , you could see an escalation in the relapse rates and more pressure on the health sector”.

She added that the problem must be pre-empted and addressed, because it could escalate into a “very, very negative outcome”.

Senator Longmore also encouraged more Jamaicans to ensure that they have health insurance, as this could determine whether they overcome diseases.

Opposition Senator Sophia Binns, who also joined in the discussion, agreed that it was important for people to have health insurance.

“It makes the difference between life and death, and it makes the difference between the type of life you can live, for those who manage to survive,” she noted.

Leader of Government Business Senator Kamina Johnson said she hoped that the Senate would have the same positive energy displayed during last Friday’s meeting, for the rest of the sessions.

“I am optimistic about the parliamentary sessions ahead of us, if the tone of today’s contributions to the motion for the adjournment is anything to go by,” she said.

Leader of Opposition Business Senator Donna Scott Mottley also welcomed the exchanges, calling it “a wonderful blend of both female and male energy”.

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