Gleaner Letter of the Day | Clacken’s death lesson on mental-health awareness

Greetings lovelies! 

Sharing this letter with you, published yesterday, that I wrote and submitted to both The Gleaner and the Jamaica Observer about the execution of Haile Clacken. The Gleaner dubbed it Letter of the Day, while the Observer published it in full and I’m honoured they both did, as this is a conversation that really needs to be had.

Clacken, a Jamaican journalist/teacher, was killed last week by an armed security guard. He was challenged with Bipolar Disorder and having an episode at the time of his death. You can read more about the incident here.

As an advocate for mental health awareness and proper care and treatment of the mentally ill here in Jamaica, I couldn’t let the opportunity pass to share my thoughts. It was a very emotional situation for me as it reminded me so much of my own struggles and, admittedly, made me a bit fearful because of it. In my view, his death speaks volumes about our collective view of the mentally ill and widespread lack of ignorance on the matter. It also provides the perfect opportunity for us to address it.

My letter (as published/edited in The Gleaner) is below. The full (and very passionate) version was also published in the Jamaica Observer here. Please, if you feel so moved, submit one yourself and keep the discussion going. We need #justiceforhaile and informed action for the mentally ill.

Love, light and blessings all ways

– Tami

Update: I just learned that the security guard implicated in the incident has now been charged for murder. 10 points for justice!

A week ago in Cheapside, St Elizabeth, Haile Clacken was gunned down after hitching a ride on an armoured vehicle. The incident was witnessed by at least 10 onlookers, all of whom have described it with words like “senseless”, “brutal” and “execution”, as he is said to have been on his knees pleading for his life.
On hearing the story, I immediately noted several similarities between he and I – both of us journalists, students of literature, St Elizabeth natives, and, most pertinently, challenged with bipolar disorder. Not only has his untimely death jolted me, but it also raises many questions, especially after a week has already passed without a peep from the typically eager human-rights defenders and impassioned church community.
Where is the investigative journalism? Or well-written think tank pieces on the state of Jamaica’s mental-health policies, referencing previous cases and calling for Guardsman to step up to the plate? I am yet to see one.


Now is the perfect time for a public awareness campaign on mental health and illness.
Clacken took a seemingly bizarre, out-of-character action that led to his death, but for us to understand it, we must be clear on how his condition works. Bipolar disorder, or manic depression, is characterised by unusual mood swings, behaviour and functional ability. Usually with two extremes, very heightened emotional and energetic states or low frequency resulting in severe depression.
In layman’s terms, you are either really happy to the point of doing ridiculous things without much thought (like, for example, climbing an armoured truck) or crushed under the weight of sadness, unable to function normally – traits from each spectrum can also happen simultaneously.
Many Jamaicans are unfamiliar with the condition. It is therefore very important that we see this tragic incident as a learning opportunity – a chance to apply a more inclusive approach to dealing with mental illness.


Ideally, there should be no stigma and the public should be able to perform mental-health first aid, or at least identify the symptoms and know where to seek help when it is needed. This way, persons like Mr Clacken could have been immediately identified as in need of assistance and a safe, supportive environment.
It is just as important to know the signs of mental illness as it is to know the signs of a heart attack, yet when we do recognise them, they are met with ridicule, disdain, or worse, violence.
Mentally ill people are not criminals or societal scourges to be wiped out. We are humans with treatable or manageable conditions, valuable thoughts and emotions worthy of living our lives, whether functional or in need of treatment. We are not monsters. We deserve justice, too.
Haile Clacken was slain by a man who may well need mental health aid himself. Are we properly screening security personnel before equipping them with guns?
Let’s use this dark situation to learn more about mental health, discuss it openly, show more love and support to challenged individuals and shed light on the real issues that lie beneath.


Blogtivist; Executive Member -Jamaica Mental Health Advocacy Network


Consultant/Lecturer/Radio Host Gerry McDaniel Talks #Mentalhealth, Stigma (& what The Bible says about it)


Hi lovelies, happy new week! For today’s #MentalHealthMonday post I’m happy to share with you a very insightful message I received by way of a WhatsApp broadcast that was forwarded to me by a friend, and a short interview with its author, Gerard ‘Gerry’ McDaniel— lecturer, consultant and host and producer of RJR 94 FM’s Palav programme. The message contains wise words (his own perspective) on mental health, the stigma around mental illnesses (and how nonsensical it is) and, most interestingly, what The Bible has to say about it all — I was happy to see it’s quite a bit.

Since he’s a Christian, I found his take on the matter particularly enlightening and refreshing, considering that many other Christians do not share the same sentiments and, due to ignorance, discredit mental illness. Some are known for telling challenged individuals to simply ‘pray harder’ and step up their faith, so his thoughts were a welcome difference. Scroll down to read the excerpt and get acquainted with the wise man who said it all. At the very least, I think you’ll find it interesting too.

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Struggling with mental/emotional issues? Here’s why more therapists recommend ESAs (guest post)

Why-more-therapists-recommend-emotional-support-animals-pets-and-mental-healthEditor’s note: Happy Friday loves!

May the weekend bring you lots of good times, good company and respite. Today’s guest post comes to you from Brad Smith of Therapy Pets on a subject that I’m very passionate about and can personally vouch for – emotional support animals. If you’re new here, you can read this post on how my furry child Jazz (pictured above) turned things around for me. I also strongly recommend animal rescue, as there are tonnes of them all over the world starving, homeless, mistreated and in need of a forever home. Animals are so kind and loving, they make any home (and heart) warmer if you just show them some love and care, plus they don’t get put down to free up space in a shelter if you adopt them, so you’d be doing a world of good by choosing one (or more).

Now having a pet for emotional support is by no means a new thing, but there’s actual proof that it works well and Brad, who wholeheartedly endorses it himself, is here to tell us all about why it’s such a great idea. Click through for more details…

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