Is This a Systemic Problem or an Individual Pathology?

psychiatrist
psychiatrist

An eleven-year-old fights with a fourteen-year-old, chopping him with a machete to death, almost cutting off  his head. Can this be  a person’s mentally disturbed behavior or an overt manifestation of a  society which is sick and depraved?

For the first, it requires individual psychiatric assessment and treatment. If the latter is the case, it requires sociological analysis and re-engineering.

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The rate of murder,  for every  100,000 people was 3.9, which was among the world’s lowest in 1962, when Jamaica became independent. 1,674 killings were committed in Jamaica in 2005, resulting in a rate of homicide of 58 per 100,000 inhabitants, which made Jamaica top the world murder rate for that year.

Does Jamaica have a large number of pathological killers or is violence inherent in Jamaican society?  Is it by finding and executing those murderers that we can solve our problem of violence or will our sick and depraved society keep producing more murderers, like this eleven-year-old boy?

According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef), for girls in Jamaica the legal consent age is sixteen years old, the average sexual initiation age in Jamaica for males is 14.5 years and for females it is 15.8 years. “Average” implies that there are Jamaican girls both above and below the mean. A lot of these girl children in Jamaica have sex as early as 11 or 12 years of age. Is it people suffering with psychological issues, or is Jamaica a depraved society that takes the virginity of minors?

It could be both, of course. It would become a sick world, with all the sick and depraved people.

Nearer Home

Some surveys say 40% of Jamaicans have been forced to experience first-hand sexual contact before they reached the legal consent age. Often, the perpetrator was someone near home: a member of the family, a teacher,  a police officer, a religious or community leader.

Are those who abuse children normal people or do they suffer with a psychological condition? Is it normal if moms pimp young girls and send them away to get the family’s daily bread by selling their bodies? Does something become ‘normal’  just because it happens frequently? That is, to say (as some put forth this argument), as gay people are found in all generations, it is normal to be homosexual. Is it normal to be a sick society?

We create solutions to problems based on our definition of the problem. Suppose the individual is the problem, our solutions are aimed at the individual: catch them  and  lock them up, or castrate or even execute the individual, some will insist.

We must carefully reweave when the problem lies in society’s fabric. In order to break down the negative components and  integrate positive attitudes and values into society, we need social engineering. We must also build social institutions, however, so that successive generations reproduce those positive values

Social dysfunctionality has been treated as if it’s only an individual dysfunctionality – a part of which is involved – but there is a lot more to the problem: individual dysfunctionality mostly comes from our social structures.

Psychiatrists G. Walcott and Fred Hickling wrote an article on “A view of personality disorder from the colonial periphery” in the West Indian Medical Journal, in 2013. On the basis of the 3 factors identified in the previous research, they developed a Jamaican Personality Disorder Inventory (JSDI): power management, dependence, psychosexual abnormalities. Following the validation of a JPDI in the West Indies University Hospital using psychiatric and other patients, a countrywide scientific survey  was commissioned for 1506 Jamaicans, to assess the populace.

Personality Disorder

“(41.4 percent) or two-fifths of the stratified Jamaica sample surveyed were eligible for personality disorder diagnosis,” they concluded. This is compared to 13-15% rates in Canada, USA, Europe and New Zealand.

UWI reported a personality disorder of 57 % for psychiatric patients compared to 28% in patients who were not mentally ill.

They conclude, “Jamaica ‘s heritage of colonial oppression and slavery led to ill-adaptive personality disorders, which led to extreme violence, murder and violent behavior.”

Due to the dehumanizing and oppressive slavery,  Jamaica, when  free was burdened with economic and social disparities and contributed to the propagation of Jamaicans with disorders of the personality in the generations that followed. Inherited personality disorder, compounded by new inequality and dehumanization systems that have arisen in our fragmented political system, may result in contemporary social problems.

We need to be vigilant that our solutions for today’s violence and crime problems should be to tackle its root causes, not only the symptoms.

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