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  • Violence Prevention Alliance

Early Intervention and the Expansion of Mental Health Services - Solutions to Address Criminal Acts

Updated: Jan 16, 2023

Dr. Brian Kazaara, Senior Resident in the Department of Psychiatry at University Hospital .

Dr Brian Kazaara, senior resident in the Department of Psychiatry at the University Hospital of the West Indies is recommending early intervention and the expansion of forensic mental health services to address mental health issues in the country.

“A lot of mental health issues start at an early age. Issues associated with violent activities like substance abuse starts at an early age as well. Studies show that early offenders are on average convicted of more offences and commit crimes of a more violent nature.”

Dr. Kazaara made the suggestions while addressing the VPA’s Steering Committee meeting in November while speaking on the topic ‘Mental Health and Violence’.

He also informed that it was also critical for the country to expand the public mental health services. “Certainly we need more psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers and mental health nurses. In particular the forensic mental health system should be bolstered as it serves to address the connection between criminal acts and mental health,” he informed.

He said it was important to keep psychiatric patients stable. He outlined that this could be achieved through early intervention measures. Preventative measures could also be applied, such as providing mental health education resources for at-risk children and their parents.

He further added that with the expansion of community mental health services, more patients would be reached outside of a hospital setting. He

explained that some patients have challenges in getting treatment and as a result some become unstable, which is when they are most susceptible to committing violent acts.

Dr Kazaara made reference to a local study done by Atkinson, Abel and Whithehorne-Smith entitled ‘Current Trends in Adolescent Substance Use in Jamaica.’, He said the study showed that alcohol continues to be the substance most widely used by Jamaican adolescent followed by tobacco, marijuana and inhalants. The research further pointed out that the average age of first use has increased slightly for all substances and that prevalence remains a concern.

“The study calls for innovative school-based interventions to assist in reducing substance use among Jamaican adolescents,” he said.

He commended the work of the VPA which he said has started a number of the initiatives targeting at risk youths and which have been supported by several studies are effective strategies. He made referencing to the VPA’s drumming programme with Child Protection and Family Services, as one such initiative.

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