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Mental health education will serve lawyers well

first_imgMental health education will serve lawyers well Mental health education will serve lawyers well Following action by the Florida Supreme Court, Bar members can now count mental health awareness education as part of their required CLE courses on professionalism, ethics, and substance abuse. The court made that change recently when it approved the annual amendments for the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar. The proposal for change was spearheaded by two Bar members — Angela Vickers, a Jacksonville lawyer and mental health advocate, and Ernst Mueller, chair of the Jacksonville Bar Association’s Committee on Law and the Disabled. In 1998, they drafted an amendment to the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar, with the intention of bringing it directly to the Florida Supreme Court. The duo had collected 50 signatures from Bar members on a petition which allowed them to bypass the Bar’s Board of Governors, pursuant to Rule 1-12.1(f). However, in order to gain the Bar’s approval, they reconsidered and brought the amendment before the board. In May 1999, the Board of Governors unanimously approved the measure, and several board members, in expressing their support, talked about their personal reasons for recommending the Supreme Court’s approval of the amendment. “I want to take this success in Florida and make it a national success,” said Vickers, who is scheduled to speak at two upcoming national mental health conferences. “I’ve planted the seeds nationally for justice through education.” Vickers has taught several programs already across the state, and she is currently in the process of teaching others to lead seminars. Personal Experience After a single episode in 1988, Vickers was diagnosed with manic-depression and lost her husband and her two children through a painful divorce. With counseling and medication, Vickers has remained well and stable and has not had another manic episode. Treatment for mental illness has progressed to the point today where, though a “cure” isn’t yet possible, stabilization can be achieved. The key to treatment, she notes, is awareness. “So much of this tragedy could’ve been prevented if people understood [mental illness],” she said. “If I had had any episodes before, it was in a good sense in that it gave me enough energy to get all those `As’ in college. That’s why attorneys are at risk. For very successful people, your lack of need for sleep or grandiose delusions can be a temporarily helpful thing. For some people, they roll along and never even know they’ve got an illness.” Mental illness onset is not something that “comes out of the blue,” according to Vickers. Symptoms can arise, often unnoticed, years before the illness is discovered. Increasing attorneys’ awareness of the symptoms and methods of mental illness may aid in early detection and treatment, which ultimately may prevent a great deal of attorney discipline, substance abuse, or suicides, she said. This is just one side of the coin, however. Education about mental illness will also help attorneys to deal more effectively with their clients. An underlying cause of many crimes is substance abuse, which is often just a person’s attempt at self-medication of a mental illness, Vickers said. Attorneys who can spot the warning signs of mental illness are better equipped to help their clients both in and out of court. “The thousands of mentally ill citizens of Florida lack a means of locating Bar members who understand mental illness, creating a sense of defenselessness and oppression in their efforts to end the discrimination they face,” Vickers wrote in a letter seeking support from the chair of the BLSE. “Most with a mental diagnosis are wrongfully, shamefully hiding their mental disorders for fear of persecution. Fear of mistreatment is causing thousands to remain in denial, refusing to see the psychiatrist they need, and/or refusing to take the medications prescribed. Common, inherited, and very treatable brain disorders are all they are guilty of having.” Though Vickers is hesitant to have too much of her personal experience with mental illness discussed, for fear of overshadowing her advocacy efforts, she will soon disclose many of her difficulties and triumphs in the press. “There will be a book and a movie — several producers have already talked to me about it — as soon as I slow down from the advocacy,” she said. “The time has come to stop treating people with mental illnesses as though they’re witches or as though they’re somehow unfit, and until we get full national access for people to lawyers who understand this, we’re having civil rights being deprived all over this nation.” June 15, 2001 Regular Newslast_img

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Jamaica approves plan in response to violence against children

first_imgDr. Grace McLean KINGSTON, Jamaica, CMC – The Jamaica government has approved the National Plan of Action for an Integrated Response to Children and Violence (NPACV) in response to its commitment made to the Global Partnership to end violence against children.Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information, Dr. Grace McLean, said the plan to be implemented over a five-year period, has also been tabled in the Parliament.She told the plenary session for the eighth Biennial Jamaica Diaspora Conference that the aim of the plan is to create and maintain a protective environment supportive of and responsive to the issues of violence, child abuse and maltreatment of children in Jamaica.“What this means is that, for the first time, we have a comprehensive response, an inter-sectoral response to treating with violence against children,” she said.The plan involves collaboration among several government ministries, agencies and departments, civil society groups and other stakeholders.The core objective of the NPACV is to reduce the impact of violence against children through an integrated approach to prevention, control, intervention responses, monitoring and evaluation. This is to ensure that the rights of children are preserved, and that an environment is created to stimulate their positive growth and development into productive citizens of Jamaica.The Diaspora Conference is being hosted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade under the theme ‘Jamaica and the Diaspora: Building Pathways for Sustainable Development’. It ends on Thursday.Meanwhile, the government says it is lobbying the support of Jamaicans living overseas for the establishment of proposed Global Jamaica Diaspora and Global Jamaica Youth Councils.Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Minister, Kamina Johnson Smith, said the concept for both proposals will be discussed at the ongoing Diaspora Conference.Johnson Smith said the Global Jamaica Diaspora Council is intended to be an expanded and inclusive body with a wide membership of individuals “who hold Jamaica at the forefront of their voluntary efforts”.She said that not only will the Council “ease the burden” placed on the Diaspora Advisory Board, “but it will allow for greater inclusivity of Jamaicans living afar in lands across the oceans” and is intended to have members from six regions not currently represented on the Board. These are Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Latin America, the Caribbean, Europe, and the Middle East.“This way we ensure that in diasporic regions, which are real but are not as yet organised, they will have an opportunity to engage with us directly and to learn from colleagues who are more organised. This is how we [will] create the institutional framework to build out and expand our diaspora to the reach that we know we truly have,” Johnson Smith said, adding that efforts will also be made to ensure that wide-ranging sector interests are represented,These include health; education; arts, sports and culture; faith-based institutions; citizen security; commerce, and development.She said that this will ensure that persons with the breadth of expertise and experience in these areas are engaged and afforded the opportunity to make their contributions to Jamaica’s development.Johnson Smith said the Global Jamaica Diaspora Youth Council is intended to create the framework for increased and sustainable connections between young Jamaicans living overseas and the island.“We know that our young people are our future. We know, have known and have been saying for some time that it is important that young Jamaicans maintain a connection to our island, outside of just our food, language, music and culture.”She told the meeting that a draft of the proposed National Diaspora Policy has been prepared and will be discussed at the conference before its submission to Cabinet for consideration and approval.The policy will provide the framework for effective partnerships with Jamaicans living abroad.last_img read more

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