Linstead | Health Ministry Called Out, Urged to Help Mentally ill People

Linstead | Health Ministry Called Out, Urged to Help Mentally ill People

September 25, 2021 0 By Jamaica Beacon

Bishop Aaron Cunningham (left) and Councillor for the Linstead Division Herbert Garriques

Calls have intensified for the Ministry of Health to take action regarding mentally challenged people roaming the streets of Linstead in St. Catherine – this following a tragic incident that happened in Linstead town yesterday.

In that incident, a mentally challenged man, who was well known for carrying out violent attacks on people, used a stone to kill a cop. Police shot him dead moments later.

The latest call for Government to do more to rehabilitate mentally ill citizens has come separately from Councillor for the Linstead Division Herbert Garriques, and interim Chairman of the North Central Zone of the Lay Magistrate Association of St. Catherine Bishop Aaron Cunningham.

Bishop Cunningham posited: “Many members of the public do not understand or know how to handle mentally challenged persons, and it is becoming increasingly difficult as many of them roam the streets especially in business communities. It poses a threat to persons’ lives.”

He also lamented that, although members of the public have made reports about being attacked by people with mental issues, no action is taken by the State.

“The State needs to act quickly to put measures in place to take them (mentally ill people) off the streets and give them treatment,” Bishop Cunningham said.

He added: “Once someone recognizes a mentally challenged person becoming a threat to the public space, it should be reported to the authorities and the authorities – on the other hand – should quickly take action to remove the mentally ill person for treatment. Oftentimes these cases are reported and nothing is done until a life is taken or someone is injured – and this should not be the case.”

In the meantime, the Linstead councillor, Garriques, noted that some families are not in a position to personally control and care for relatives who are mentally ill.

He too lamented that action is not being taken when people report being attacked in Linstead by persons who have mental issues.

“It is not one time or two times they would have thrown stones or sticks or lick people with iron or machete. It is not because the people don’t report them or carry them to clinic or hospital,” Garriques added. “It is the State that has to come in and carry dem goh Bellevue [Hospital]. Wi can’t allow the [mentally ill] people to be on the road like dem a ordinary citizen.”

Garriques also noted that the drop-in centre that is being built in Linstead is not for mentally ill people, but for other persons who are homeless.

He, like Bishop Cunningham, also expressed condolences to relatives and colleagues of the slain police officer, 34-year-old Paul Gordon, who was assigned to the Technical Services Division at Linstead Police Station.

The mentally challenged man killed is 25 year-old Alwayne Shakespeare, better known as Al.

Reports are that, about 6:45AM, the officer was walking on the sidewalk outside Sinclair’s Bargain Centre in Linstead when Shakespeare used a stone to inflict a fatal wound to his head.

Moments later, police killed Shakespeare at Linstead Market – a relatively short distance away from where the policeman was attacked.

The Jamaica Constabulary Force, in a press release, said: “Whilst the police were trying to apprehend the suspect, he attacked the officers with a machete; he was shot fatally shot.” The Independent Commisison of Investigations is investigating the incident.

Just over a month before the deadly attack, Shakespeare’s relatives publicly appealed to the authorities for help in removing him from the streets, citing his violent nature. His mother, Idolyn Roman, stated that her family did not have the wherewithal to manage him.

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