Dr. Fred Hickling has characterized the Jamaican society largely as mad. This assessment drew howls  of condemnation from many  Jamaicans who weren’t too  keen on being characterized as mad . There was also the plethora of  highfalutin  thesis’ written, that makes sense only to the writers , all in condemnation of Dr. Hickling.

As a lay person , not sure whether I am mad or not, I was quite prepared to let the two sides of the mad debate duke it out ,Hopefully the people who feel we are not really all mad, would win the debate , that I could take back to my wife and say ha ha, see I told you I was not mad! She  sometimes tries to convince me I am a crazy Jamaican. She thinks the madness did not get passed  down to her, despite the fact her parents are Jamaicans. She was born in the United States, so she gets to disparage me as a crazy Jamaican, while revelling in the good Jamaican values her parents imparted into her. I keep telling her that the two are an oxymoron, she disagrees.

Anyway after really looking at what is happening in Jamaica I might have to admit I’m not sure what to think, absent any other explanation, I’m sure this will invoke a lot of crowing from the wife , but there may be no way around it. Seriously though let’s take a look at some of what Dr. Hickling said.

Professor Fredrick Hickling and clinical psychologist Vanessa Paisley have concluded that personality disorder is prevalent in Jamaica.Their finding is contained in a scientific paper prepared for presentation at the Society for the Study of Psychiatry and Culture in Seattle, Washington, in June. The paper is titled ‘Population Prevalence of Personality Disorder in Jamaica’. something is wrong . According to Professor Hickling, a person would be characterised as having a personality disorder if he or she is showing signs of a combination of the following factors: power-management struggles, psychosexual dysfunction, and dependency issues.Data from the four-stage, stratified random-sampling method, suggest that the rate of personality disorder – approximately 40 per cent – in the Jamaican population is markedly higher than the internationally identified rate of six-15 per cent. “We have to recognise that something is wrong and not brush things under the carpet,” said Paisley.The scientific sampling was carried out by Don Anderson & Associates on a representative population sample of 1,506 Jamaicans age 18 to 64 years. Extrapolation of the data reveals that nearly one million persons in Jamaica suffer from personality disorders.Hickling and Paisley believe the findings could explain the high risk of behavioural dysfunction in the Jamaican population.”Extrapolating these findings to our society, there is no wonder about the high rates of murder and violence, rape, and other sexual atrocities, and crimes such as theft and praedial larceny that are crippling our society,” the academics noted in a joint letter to The Gleaner published earlier this month.According to Hickling, if the findings don’t influence public policy, “then we are doomed to repeating the same mistakes of the last 100 years or since Independence”.He is convinced that many of the crime strategies employed by the security forces have failed because this scientific aspect of the crime problem has gone unaddressed. “Introspection and legislation will not solve this problem. We will continue to fail,” Hickling said.Paisley agrees. “We have a failure in our mental-health provision. It is hindering our ability to move forward.”Policies should be geared towards the training of practitioners and implementation of effective psychotherapeutic moda-lities that can be used to treat persons with the disorder.”Proper screening methods should be implemented in mental health treatment facilities, including screening of persons in substance-abuse facilities,” she added.


Paisley also argued that public-education programmes utilising all forms of media should be used to enlighten the public about the various mental-health issues that are prevalent in the society and the treatment options that are available.”Campaigns should also push to further promote the destig-matisation of mental illness in Jamaica,” Paisley said.Hickling pointed to the Cuban and Singaporean examples. “Cuba has implemented behaviour-modification techniques. Many of them are said to be draconian. People are critical of the Cuban model, but it is effective.In Singapore, if you spit on the street, you are locked up and put into a behaviour-modification programme.”However, in Jamaica, “the crime plans we have ,catch a small number of people and many of them get away,” said Hickling.The professor believes behaviour-modification programmes, crime plans, and legislative issues need to go hand-in-hand if Jamaica is to tame the crime monster. “The severity of treatment and legislative programme needs to be dependent upon the severity of the problem and the levels of the people who are manifesting the problems,” he said.Hickling and Paisley’s findings have already attracted critics who have sought to discredit the findings. But Hickling has some choice words for his detractors: “Of course they would disagree because they know nothing about it. If you throw stone in a hog pen, the first one who squeals is the one who gets hit. The people fighting against it are not clinicians; they haven’t done the work.”In this whole business of mental illness, it is the one who it lick is the one who squeals,” said


Hickling said personality disorder cannot be treated with medication, but treatment cannot be fully explored until the country accepts that something is wrong.”There are two ways to stop it (personality disorder): by preventing young people from developing it, and older people from getting worse with the use of behaviour-modification psychotherapy.”

Severity Ratings

Mild Personality Disorder

The person knows something is wrong with his or her behaviour and usually seeks help.

Moderate Personality Disorder

This is when you can look at someone and say there is something wrong with his or her behaviour. Excessive drinkers, smokers and eaters, etc, usually fall within this category. But they are personally unaware of the fact that they have a problem.

Severe Personality Disorder

This category is much easier to spot. Persons who have continuous run-ins with authority and authority structures fall within this group.

Some symptoms

Person consistently has power-management problems

Psychosexual problems (multiple sexual partners, sexual dysfunction, abnormal sexual practices, etc)

Dependency problems.(courtesy Jamaica

Proffesor Hickling’s assesment aside , the reason I write this blog  is this, are we really mad despite the negative connocation ?,and if we are what are the real reasons we are traumatized to this degree?  Or, are we just looking for an excuse to avoid avoid facing the disfunction.  Let’s face it every day there are more and more evidence in the news that would tend to support Dr’s. Hicklings and Paisley’s assesment. I know it is not a subject we Jamaicans are comfortable talking about, but the arguments both proffesionals make, seem to have a lot of weight in light of what we see happening today in our society.

Proffesor Hickling did not mince words when he responded to critics of the assesment he and Dr Paisley made quote: “Of course they would disagree because they know nothing about it. If you throw stone in a hog pen, the first one who squeals is the one who gets hit. The people fighting against it are not clinicians; they haven’t done the work.”In this whole business of mental illness, it is the one who it lick is the one who squeals” . I find Proffesor Hicklins response refreshing and unpretentious, he actually summed up the cadre of  highfalutin elitists that I alluded to earlier in this blog, without being highfalutin himself. In essence Proffesor Hickling spoke to the Academics, and the wannabes , but was also able to reach the common man. There was an absence of pretence and grandiosity which as a lay person I found quite refreshing.

One of the Really interesting points of note  evidenced  here, is the ability of Jamaicans to pretend, we pretend that Jamaica is nice, while we hide behind layers and layers of iron bars in our own homes.

We pretend Jamaica nice while people are being decapitated. Our reasoning? Well those people did something to people, .

Question is: How long will it be before you do something to someone  and lose your head ?

We pretend Jamaica nice while extortionist suck the life out of the financial sector , using the money to purchase guns and ammunition to keep us more enslaved .

Our rationalization: Well the business people were making a lot of money and wasn’t giving anything back.No matter what is going on we pretend that as long as it’s hasn’t touched us it does not exist, or it isn’t as bad as others say it is.

We have followed this course of denial to what now seem to be the brink of the precipice. Our friends from uptown , not necessarily the old monied interests , but the johnny come lately are the masters of this, they are the most pretentious, these are usually black social climbers who have gained some education ,and wants their piece of the Aristocracy.

They are worse than the left over mulattoes from yester-year, who generally  are more reasoned,   those who happen to fall within the group characterized as old capitalists  are literally marked for death (Douglas Manley former health minister and brother of former Prime Minister  Manley can relate to that, he was not spared having his privacy invaded ,  his brother helped to create that mentality).

The johnny come lately are to be found in all strata of the society , media, legal fraternity,medical fraternity, business, NGO’s and even within the church , as we all know at the head of that pack are the political class. These are the ones who shape public opinion, which is really not hard to do in Jamaica  if you have a little money,.They use the media , their pulpits, and other mediums  to push their agendas, making our country their fiefdom and the masses their serfs.

So as we struggle with this state of contemplation of whether we are mad as Dr. Hickling et al said , I hope that it will be settled that we are not mad ,maybe just dysfunctional, but honestly I do see at least one of the signs the  goodly Doctors pointed to in myself.

I hate it when my wife is right.

mike beckles:

have your say:






3 thoughts on “ARE YOU MAD?

  1. Dear Mr. Beckles:

    I hope the Dr.’s are wrong; however, numbers generally don’t lie, lol. And for the record-I will still love you if they are right in their analysis. Great article, sweetie!

    Your wife,


  2. Not being a psychiatrist or psychologist myself I nevertheless have long been of the opinion that we (humans) are all mad, ie suffering from some degree of mental and or psychological dysfunction. The only question seems to be one of degree. I would not necessarily wish to contest Dr. Hicklings figure evaluation viz-a-viz the Jamaican population since my empirical observations of over fifty years tend to support his theory.

  3. Nevertheless following on from my previous statement the problem should be considered after a cogent consideration of the psychological fix in which members of all colonized societies tend to find themselves; whether to totally adhere to societal models and attitudes inadvertently or deliberately foisted upon their ‘subjects’ by the colonizers, or to recognise, adopt and promote the values of their historical heritage. Absent a consideration of this factor, in my view one that can cause extreme disfunction to the point of schizophrenia, no true understanding of the problem can be reached. The Jamaican middle class is extremely confused in this regard. A few I have met will not even play reggae in their homes if they should have a party; this musical arrangement being arguably one of the most authentic and attractive signals emanating from our historical heritage. This from a middle class that for years has produced absolutely nothing original because it insists on a slavish adherence to the goal of being the perfect little Englishman / woman.

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