Regional

Joy Crooks to leave CUMI after 25 years

BY PAUL A REID
Observer West writer

Thursday, September 07, 2017

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MONTEGO BAY, St James

After 25 years of being the face and voice of the mentally ill in St James, Nurse Joy Crooks, the administrator at the Committee for the Upliftment of the Mentally Ill (CUMI), is planning to leave the organisation and return home to England by next summer.

Crooks made the announcement at last week's media launch of the 10th CUMI Come Run event, the main fund-raiser for the organisation.

She later told the Jamaica Observer West that “by next summer, hopefully we will find the right person to take over my position”.

A need to be with her family, she said, was the overriding reason for her planned departure.

“There is no major reason, just family time now. My grandchildren are growing up and I feel like I am missing out. I loved being here, but I am the only one from my family who is here,” she explained.

Crooks, who has been a strident voice for the care and rehabilitation of the mentally ill, said that during her stint in Jamaica, the country has shown tremendous growth in the awareness and acceptance of mental illness.

Among the improvements she cited was the increase in mental health officers from one per parish in the late 1980s to between four and six now, depending on the size of the area.

Asked to review her time in Jamaica, Crooks said, “I can't describe it; it's just been super, super magnificent. I have had the opportunity to develop in my chosen profession because I take nursing, and in particular psychiatric nursing, like a vocation, and it seems that I came to Jamaica at the right time to be involved in it.”

The overwhelming support, she said, has resulted in great results. “The support has been encouraging; for the amount of people we have helped and the kinds of people we have helped, to give them a better picture that there is life after mental health issue or with mental health issues, you can manage it and have a decent normal life.”

Reinforcing her mantra over the years, Crooks said the gradual removal of the stigma of mental illness was one major victory for her organisation.

“We have been able to do that and we have been doing the education that there is no good health without good mental health,” she stressed.

Crooks had high praises for Jamaicans, who she said have evolved from a stage of ignorance of how they reacted to those suffering from mental illness.

“We have reached a stage here in Jamaica where it is very rarely now we see people stone mentally ill people because they don't understand. Many persons now are educated and have become wise as to how to recognise that you have a mental health issue, and just the same way when you have diabetes or blood pressure you go to get help — you know when you are stressed out you can go to get help, they go and get help — now we are getting to the stage where we can look at mental health issues the same way we look at physical issues,” she explained.

Crooks said among the high points of her stay were several cases where, “we get someone off the road, homeless, mentally ill, can't function, and then we get them to the point where they have become functional individuals, working, looking after the family and contributing back to society”.

“Even the lowest points like the street people scandal, but even in that there was some high, in that it paved the way for a lot more awareness and then the professional growth like the increase of the mental health officers from one to six in the parish.”

When asked if she would be involved in finding her successor, she said “it might well be, as it seems I am involved in everything that CUMI does”.

“I have been putting feelers out there, but the more immediate need is to find an enrolled nurse who will work with me and help in succession planning,” she added.

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