Express Editorial : Daily

TWO incidents in recent days have called attention to the need for greater surveillance of, and assistance to, the mentally ill in our midst.

There have also been several reports in the last few years, of incidents in which police officers assumed no alternatives but to fire on mentally ill persons in their attempts to apprehend them.

In one of the incidents last week, a young man allegedly bludgeoned his 83-year-old grandmother to death. And in the latest incident, a man in Princes Town burned down a family home, with his relatives recounting a long litany of unfortunate prior incidents. It was not the first time he had set the particular dwelling on fire and had been in and out of treatment. He has been said to have maintained a practice of terrorising others in the community in which he lives. The relative, speaking in the wake of this latest incident said the man, 48, also does not take the medication with which he is provided, and that relatives have been advised that he must seek treatment voluntarily.

But the protocols as established under the basket of provisions provided by the Ministry of Health advise that there can also be involuntary access, “when a mentally ill person urgently requires treatment but does not enter treatment voluntarily”. What is required in such cases, is the completion of an “urgent assessment form” approved by two independent psychiatric doctors, to the satisfaction of the head of the psychiatric hospital in St Ann’s. In such cases, the patient will remain institutionalised, until the authorities there determine that he or she can be safely released.

In the case of the 18-year-old who allegedly killed his disabled grandmother, again relatives have spoken about a prolonged period of mental disturbance on the part of this young man. He was described, among other laments, as “seeing things”, as well as behaving in ways which troubled his other relatives and family members.

Again, however, partly because of the sensitivities associated with the issue of mental illness, family members remain reluctant to take action towards involuntary institutionalisation of their loved ones. The hands of the authorities appear to be tied in this regard, given that such interventions cannot be forced.

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Family members appear to have a significant responsibility, therefore, to make a determination for a troubled member to be afforded the best care available when the warning signs are as apparent as they have been in the cases under review here.

By taking what essentially has materialised as the hands-off approach, even in an environment of deep care and concern, in both cases family and community members must rue their hesitance to take necessary preventive action.

There are any number of grounds on which the standard of care, and the quality of the treatment of the institutionalised mentally ill have come under negative scrutiny.

But as both of these latest instances have demonstrated, the consequences of avoidance can be inestimably worse, and hereinafter regretful.


In a newspaper column in May 2004, the late George John pronounced as follows: “Journalists and journalism are everybody’s football, to kick around at every opportunity and most of the time without reason. 

West Indies cricket captain Jason Holder has been a magnificent example to his team mates in terms of leadership, attitude and in doing the work to improve his own game.

AS the days pass and some access to Abaco and Grand Bahama has become possible, it is heartbreakingly evident that the toast of Caribbean tourism, that idyllic dreamland of all-inclusive resorts, casinos, cruise ships and lovably turquoise waters, has taken a severe hit from Hurricane Dorian.

I WISH to commend the hardworking motorcycle police officer who directs traffic on mornings between the Mt Hope junction at the Eastern Main Road (EMR) and Farm Road, St Joseph.

TRINIDAD and Tobago is in a recession; we are short of foreign exchange earnings; our foreign exchange reserves are dwindling; people are being retrenched; firms are closing; local councils are underfunded.

On April 1 (All Fools Day) long ago, people played a game called, “Send the fool a little farther.” This entailed fooling a hapless victim by informing him that someone was looking for him. When he found the person, that mischievous individual sent him on to another who supposedly was the one who really wanted to see him, and that one sent him on to another.