WRONG_WOEID WRONG_WOEID

Crazy But Far From Stupid

Outcast-of-societyPatients at the Mental Hospital often beg for money. One day, I asked one rather persistent patient, "How do you all know to beg for for money?" She replied, "Dr Simon, we are crazy, not stupid."

Unfortunately, that concept is not understood by the public health care authorities in Antigua & Barbuda. This has resulted in a system that is failing one of the most vulnerable groups of our society - the mentally ill. The truth is, it says a lot about our society that most of us do not want to hear.

Firstly, our society is not as developed as we think it is. Forget about our high ranking in the United Nations' human development index. No less a figure than the great Mahatma Ghandi measured a country's development by how it treats its vulnerable elements, for example its mentally ill.

No, it is not enough to talk of GDP, the number of internet connections and cell phones per person, nor the number of cars on our roads. The question is, how do we help those who cannot or can hardly help themselves?

Next, our education is severely lacking. Every year, we have students passing more and more subjects, but in the education of life we are registering a failing grade. (Might I suggest that school principals consider the Mental Hospital as a potential  field trip or project for their students? The education would be invaluable.)

Additionally, it speaks volumes about our lack of caring. The conditions in which patients are housed at the Mental Hospital are not only depressing, but at times downright atrocious. Everything from their food to their living quarters is grossly inadequate.


While we all have to take a collective responsibility, the public health care authorities have to bear the brunt. Not only are patient conditions poor, the people who work to take care of them are treated just as poorly.

The Mental Hospital, which routinely houses more than 115 patients, lacks the basic infrastructure of a health care facility. The patients stay in cramped, unhygienic conditions in wards that are poorly lit, inadequately ventilated, and generally overcrowded, with antiquated plumbing. It is not uncommon to find pockets of stagnant water, unkempt bushes, and rubbish inappropriately disposed of around the compound.

For example, a few years ago, the outdoor garbage bins brought to the hospital were all without covers. One of these was placed near the kitchen door. These are prime conditions that facilitate communicable and insect borne diseases and represent a safety hazard for the workers.

Not that this is news to the authorities, as workers often complain about the poor conditions that endanger their health and the health of the patients. But often, any needed improvement to the physical plant takes oh-so-long to be acknowledged, and even longer to be carried out. Even when photographic evidence is presented, it seems that the authorities are content to live with the shame.

The efforts of the dedicated men and women who work there often go unnoticed, unrecognized, and by extension, unappreciated. Their daily plight is not seen, their daily cry for help is not heard, and their daily frustrations are not understood. No one recognises when they go above and beyond the call of duty, even at a danger to their own existence.

Mental health is a branch of medicine, like any of the other branches of medicine; and a proper system has to be put in place so that people who suffer from mental illnesses are adequately taken care of. Hence, the necessary resources have to be put into the sector. Whether they be financial, infrastructural or human, the system can thrive only if we put in the necessary resources. We cannot continue to treat mental health as the illegitimate stepchild.


One fundamental principle we must recognise is that any one of us can become mentally ill. Any one of us can be put in that oh-so-vulnerable position. Mental illness does not regard how rich or poor we are, our social status, our level of academic achievement, our nationality, or race. It does not regard our family name, our physical appearance, or even which politician we know. Yes, even they can be mentally ill. As a result, we have to start to see the problems that exist in the mental health sector as our problems.

We have to start paying more attention to the plight of the mentally ill. We have to stop seeing them as the outcasts of society and start seeing them as our neighbours. And if, in the words of Jesus Christ, we love our neighbours as ourselves, we will start to treat them with the respect they deserve.

We have to start recognising the difficult, dedicated work done by the people who work in the mental health sector. We have to start to listen to and assist them as they take care of one of the most vulnerable groups in our society. We have to start taking care of our family members that we sometimes ignore.

Finally, we have to put some real pressure on the authorities. No more should we be tolerating a system that treats our  mentally ill patients as if they are scum, or blatantly disrespects the workers who take care of them. The research has already been done; they do not have to re-invent the wheel; what is now needed is the political will.

While crazy does not mean stupid, it is clear that the authorities are not understanding this. Even the mentally ill patients recognise that they are being poorly treated; why can't the authorities get it?

Dr. Jerry SimonDr. Jerry Simon ( NSA Medical Surgical Rehab Centre, 462 0631, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. )

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22 Comments In This Article   

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Social worker/Mental Health Professional

#22 Trevor Shadrack » 2011-05-11 12:08

I am an Antiguan who lives in England and working with in the mental health system. I have been trying to find out how I can get involved or offer my expertise in some way in changing / updating views/the mental health system in Antigua.I would be open to suggestions
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Trevor Shadrack

Response to Cia

#21 BluRed » 2010-09-01 07:41

Dr Simon has not only talked about the problem but has done something about it .Cia since he has now tell you what the problem is why don't try to be part of the solution. Do not come with that lame excuse about not having means and not in position to help.
What is the contribution you are going to make. You can be the one to start light the fire you are talking about.
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BluRed

My opinion remains the same

#20 Cia » 2010-08-28 23:28

I am not in the position to fix anything in Antigua nor do I have the means. All I suggested was that since he noticed that there was a problem then he should attempt to do something to resolve it or make some suggestions. If everyone feels the solution would be to get the Ministries and Health officials involved then light some fire under them so that they can fix the problem. Why present a problem without a solution? That solves nothing.
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Cia

A very telling article

#19 DJ » 2010-08-28 05:09

Sad, but true. The mentally ill is a forgotten group in our society. Every four years we may see or hear of changes but it's mostly lip service.. We all know that.. There is very little (if any) provisions made for them in our Health Care System. Definitely a matter for the government. It's heat warming and refreshing to hear that there are people like the good Doctor out there, doing what they can, to make genuinely make a difference.

Thanks for sharing
DJ
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DJ

Agree

#18 DC » 2010-08-27 17:41

I am in agreement with Dr. Simon. But I'm not at all surprised. When the country has let successive administrations get away without building a library after the previous one was destroyed by an earthquake in 1974, what do you expect would happen to the most vulnerable members of society?
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DC

#17 Skyewill » 2010-08-27 13:43

@CIA, why you don't it? Sometimes you people make me want to just go off. It is obvious the man is doing something about the situation. What do you suggest. What is your answer to the solutions
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Skyewill

I can testify

#16 BluRed » 2010-08-27 12:55

As a former worker at Mental hospital I can testify to what Dr. Simon wrote about. He always would talk about it when he worked there and tried to change what he could. He respected the other workers and I know he even took patients home to eat at his table. He even took time to teach non- medical staff about Biology and Medicine.
He was not afraid of manual labour. This I saw after a tropical storm that had flooded out the place.
As a friend I know it pains him in some way to write this article.
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BluRed

Correction of Pro action not reaction

#15 Robie » 2010-08-27 12:37

the second to last sentence should read " wrong response TO the Doc's article.
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Robie

PRO-ACTION not REACTION

#14 Robie » 2010-08-27 12:13

I understand that, by the order of some high ranking official(s) in the Min. of Health, quite a number of patients were discharged from the Mental Hospital today. I heard it was said by the official(s) that there is not adequate funds to take care of all the patients.
I wonder if this had anything to do with the Doctor,s article. If that is indeed the case, that was the wrong response the Doc's article.
To the Gov. I want to say, we need pro- action not reaction.
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Robie

Great job Dr. Simon!!!

#13 Morris » 2010-08-27 08:45

I concur that this is by far the best opinion piece that I have ever read on Caribarena. I must say that if this article does not tug at the consciences of our elected officials then they really don't give a damn about the country. Not only was it concise, precise, informative and moving, it also exposes a major problem in our healthcare system.

I disagree with those who suggest that the doctor organize some fund raisers to help fix the problems. It is not his job to fund the institution; that is what taxes are for. Healthcare is one of the government's primary responsibilities and should not be neglected. It seems as though whenever problems are identified in Antigua the response is always for the public to think of initiatives to solve them, thus negating the authorities of their inherent responsibilities.
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The Mentally Ill

#12 Deep Roots » 2010-08-27 08:17

Doctor, thanks for putting the spot light on the plight of the mentally ill. Fact is, the mentally ill population have become a forgotten society. These individuals are our brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers and even our own children, yet we fail to recognized their existence. The daily issues of life such as employment, finance, relationship, and health, creates more than enough stress to drive any individual into a state of deep depression. He or she could then become a resident of the same facility once ignored. Also, we should be more than happy to pay homage to the men and women on the front line taking care of our forgotten society. Lastly, We need to be more like the good Samaritan coming to the rescue of our own, instead, we behavior more like the Levite in the parable of the good Samaritan (Luke 10:25/37).
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Deep Roots

Don't turned our backs

#11 Dig It » 2010-08-27 03:15

Dr. Simon, a very good article! I had posted a comment before, but didn't see it. Perhaps, I didn't clicked the "Terms of Usage" box (did something wrong though). Anyway, I believe we can help mentally ill patients by providing an array of educational services, peer counseling, and workable training programs for workers at the Mental Hospital, family members, and, of course, those pateints. I believe we have turned our backs on these people for a very long time because of their illness; however, we failed to realize that they are part of our society, and the illness have no barriers in terms of a person's of any age, race, sex, religion, or income (whatever you want to name it). Dr. Simon, it would have been helpful, if you would have discussed the types of mental illness affecting the patients at the hospital such as schizophrenia, depression, bipolar disorder, panic disorder, among others. Well, I guess, there is more to come!
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Dig It

re:tenman

#10 fnpsr » 2010-08-27 03:01

Tenman, I thank you for the compliment. The previous story was a feel good story and I was happy to see that they were purportedly taking care of the patients. Now that additional information is available, we have to show the inconsistency and hold the leaders accountable. What would be nice is if Caribarena can go there and do a follow-up story.
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fnpsr

@fnpsr

#9 tenman » 2010-08-27 02:35

fnspr I must commend you on your recollection of that story. This is a reminder along the same lines of how we pretend there is no problem. I note that at the time you (fnspr) complimented them for taking good care of the patients, based on what you read from the GG . I enjoyed this part of her speech:

“I am longing to see these beds, because you never know, I may have to come on the weekend and have a little rest,” she joked.
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tenman

re: tenman

#8 fnpsr » 2010-08-27 02:12

Tenman, Dr. Simon writes, “The patients stay in cramped, unhygienic conditions in wards that are poorly lit, inadequately ventilated, and generally overcrowded, with antiquated plumbing. It is not uncommon to find pockets of stagnant water, unkempt bushes, and rubbish inappropriately disposed of around the compound.” This does not square with what the GG said. Did you read the part where she thinks it is a hotel? Give me a break!!!

Tenman, did you notice the problem of the stagnant water and a lack of drainage and a proper sewer system popping up again? We know the problems, but we have failed to take appropriate actions. The politicians have been given immunity!!! There are no consequences for their lack of action. I would appreciate your thoughts.
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fnpsr

re: tenman

#7 fnpsr » 2010-08-27 01:58

Tenman, Dr. Simon writes, “The patients stay in cramped, unhygienic conditions in wards that are poorly lit, inadequately ventilated, and generally overcrowded, with antiquated plumbing. It is not uncommon to find pockets of stagnant water, unkempt bushes, and rubbish inappropriately disposed of around the compound.” This does not square with what the GG said. Did you read the part where she thinks it is a hotel? Give me a break!!!

Tenman, did you notice the problem of the stagnant water and a lack of drainage and a proper sewer system popping up again? We know the problems, but we have failed to take appropriate actions. The politicians have been given immunity!!! There are no consequences for their lack of action. I would appreciate your thoughts.
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fnpsr

Kudos to the Doc

#6 fnpsr » 2010-08-27 01:46

The writer, Dr. Simon is a real professional. I enjoyed reading the article tremendously. It was short, informative and to the point. Dr. Simon did not try to impress us of his intellect. Any 8th grader could have read this article and understand it. I remember when I was at the Academy, we were given a composition to write and one of my class mates asked how long should it be and the Brother smiled and said, “it should be like a mini skirt – Long enough to cover the subject and short enough to be interesting”. Well, I think Dr. Simon did exactly that in this article. Congratulations.

In an article on Caribarena, entitled “GG shares sense of Humor”, Wednesday, may 12, 2010, the GG said, “Do you know that every time I drive in these gates recently, it seems more like a hotel to me than a hospital,” the GG said jokingly to an audience that was delighted with her comedic wit. “The last time I was here it was over the other side of the male wing. They had planted some flowers, so today as I was coming up I thought I am going to see how those flowers are getting on, and I must say they are coming on nicely, blooming, and I am so pleased your environment is so lovely.”
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fnpsr

re:Talk the talk and walk the walk

#5 The purple patriot » 2010-08-27 00:27

Your suggestions are nice and heartfelt, however fund raising nor public education are the real solution for this problem. The system is broken the facility is broken fixing that will take a lot more than fund-raising and public education.

Second Dr Simon worked at the mental hospital, how many young Antiguan doctors really want to start a career by serving in the mental hospital, with all its stigma's attached.
I say he did more than just talk or even walk the walk , he went and did his job where he was needed and he saw what was wrong, now he speaks about it , how is that for public education?

Now for the real question: what are the responsible authorities going to do about this horrible situation???
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The purple patriot

WELL said

#4 tenman » 2010-08-27 00:19

A well written and very pertinent article. I do agree with cia that more has to be done to educate the public. I suspect it is our attitude towards these persons that give the powers that be the green light to treat these persons the way they do
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tenman

you de mon

#3 , » 2010-08-27 00:05

Dr Simon you are the man.
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Talk the talk and walk the walk

#2 cia » 2010-08-26 23:43

While your article is a step towards enlightening the public of the conditions at the Mental Hospital, I suggest that you further push the issue and recommend a solution, maybe even organize a team/volunteer group of some sort to personally raise funds to help those patients and also further educate the public of their condition.
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cia

#1 Skyewill » 2010-08-26 22:29

This is the best article Carib Arena ever published in my opinion. Carib Arena you should start an award for the people who write these article. Please do not mistake big words and PHD's and big talk for good writing. Good writing is when the writer connects with the common reader OK. This article exposes the real reason Antigua has so much issues. it tells how much the politicians and business leaders care about this country. The answer is nill, zero. Dr. Simon, Excellent work
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Skyewill

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Dr. Jerry Simon

Dr.Jerry Simon,a general physician, is a graduate of the University of the West Indies and Villa Clara (Cuba) Medical School. He has previously worked in Internal Medicine and Psychiatry. Presently he is Medical Director of the NSA Medical Surgical Rehab Centre and is a certified member of the American Society of Addiction Medicine.

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