By Fabiola Ramos
The Joseph N. France (JNF) Psychiatric Ward, like many psychiatric wards around the world unfortunately, seems to be this forgotten place where the patients there are offered very little apart from minimal psychiatric care. This is not because of lack of passion or dedication from the psychiatrist, nurses and caregivers, but due to a lack of resources.
Having close personal experience with mental illness in my family, I know how hard and frustrating the lifelong treatment process can be for the family, health professionals and especially to the people suffering from a mental illness. As soon as you set foot at the ward in JNF Hospital, you can appreciate the small area the patients are confined to and you notice there is not much to see and nothing to do. When I first went there, I immediately imagined what my family member with mental illness would feel like if he was hospitalized there instead of the other places in which he has been hospitalized, how desperate he would be enclosed in that small space and how anxious he would feel with absolutely nothing to do day in and day out. I thought how being there under those circumstances, with nothing to distract him from his thoughts, would worsen his condition. I shared the situation with my fellow classmates and decided we couldn’t leave the island without doing something—anything—for them.
So when it came time to plan the next UMHS’ Got Talent, we agreed that the funds collected would go towards helping out these patients. We approached Dr.Sánchez, the psychiatrist at the ward, in order to find out what they really needed and wanted. The first thing she mentioned was “chairs,” then she mentioned tables and fans. I asked if they had a television and she said it was old and broken and that a TV would be a great help.
She also mentioned hygiene products and things like books, board games and card games.
This was the second UMHS Got Talent, but different from the first one; all the money collected went to benefit these patients at the JNF Psychiatric ward. We made $900.00 U.S. from ticket sales and President Ross graciously matched that amount.
Those funds, along with money from the Christian Community Outreach Program and donations from the Winter 2018 EBS 5 class, were used to buy books, board games, three tables, 17 chairs, two fans, a stack of several personal hygiene products and a 58-inch television. All the products were delivered on Monday, April 16th and Dr. Sánchez and the nurse on shift received it with much gratitude. Walking out of the ward, the nurse approached me and told me that she was very thankful for everything but specially for the personal hygiene products, since many times the nurses have to spend their own money on buying that sort of thing for the patients. Looking at the smile in the patients faces as they saw the articles being brought in and hearing her say those words made all the effort and time invested in this project more than worthwhile.
The UMHS Got Talent was a crucial part of making this donation possible and it couldn’t have been done without the help of some amazing people. First of all, Everly Santana, president of STEPS and Carlos Rosario from CarMHI were key players who not only cohosted the event but also went above and beyond before, during and after the event to make sure it ran smoothly.
Members of both clubs, along with member from the Christian Community Outreach Program, also helped out and contributed to the success of the event.
Of course, having UMHS faculty being “judges” was one of the highlights and an important part of the event. Students really enjoy seeing their professors outside of the classroom and listening to them pass “judgment” on their classmates. It’s an opportunity to let loose, laugh and just have a good stress-free time together.
UMHS has some really talented people and we got a taste of that. From the amazing drum playing of Essa Hattar, to the incredible voice of Ricardo Vale-who wowed the audience when he sang both parts of the Ed Sheeran ft. Andrea Bocelli version of “Perfect.” All in all, it was a truly special night with a very special purpose and I sincerely hope it’s not the last one.
I want to thank President Ross and UMHS administration for their support and for providing the means and space for student organizations to create, grow and excel. Big thanks to Everson Matthew who selflessly takes care of all the sound and lighting, to Lorraine Brown for facilitating the administrative process always with a smile, to Eboni Peoples who as SGA President provided her support before and during the event, to Paul Ruiz for the great promo art, to Mitch Farrah, Carmen Santiago, Paola Rodríguez, Chineyne Iguh and all the UMHS faculty and students that supported the event one way or the other. Today, some very mentally ill people in St. Kitts have a chance to relax a little and take their minds off their illness for a while because of you.
More Photos of UMHS’ Got Talent 2018 & How Funds Raised Helped JNF Hospital in St. Kitts
Built in the tradition of the best U.S. universities, the University of Medicine and Health Sciences focuses on individualized student attention, small class sizes and recruiting high-quality faculty. For these reasons, UMHS is quickly becoming the school of choice among Caribbean medical schools.