Mental health: ethnic minority experiences

Judy - Interview 05

Age at interview: 52
Age at diagnosis: 22

Brief outline: This Black-Caribbean woman was diagnosed with manic depressive psychosis in Jamaica. She says she has not been back to hospital for 6 years because she hasn't stopped taking her medication, even though it makes her extremely drowsy.

Background: Unemployed, married with no children. Ethnic background/nationality: Black-Caribbean (born in Jamaica); in UK for 9 years.

Audio & video

Judy is a 52 year old woman of Black-Caribbean origin. She has been in the UK for 9 years. Judy became ill in Jamaica in her twenties. She was diagnosed aged 22 as having manic depressive psychosis. Judy says she's “never really found out the truth” about what this diagnosis means. Since coming to the UK, she has been told that she is bipolar and has schizophrenia. Judy doesn't think she has schizophrenia, but says that she doesn't “even know” the meaning of schizophrenia.  

Judy experienced a “massive nervous breakdown” following a relationship with a married man. Judy also believes that her strict upbringing contributed to this breakdown which resulted in her being hospitalised. Judy continued to feel very depressed. For Judy, having a breakdown means having no appetite, crying a lot, having no impetus to do anything, not being able to sleep, and sitting staring into space. Judy also describes shouting at her husband. Judy says she gets depressed very easily.

Years later Judy and her mother came to the UK to visit Judy's brother. During their stay, Judy's mother became too unwell to travel, so Judy and her mother remained in the UK, with Judy caring for her mother until she eventually went to live in a nursing home. Judy then heard that her brother had been murdered in Jamaica, and this news led to her being hospitalised. 

Judy has not been back to hospital for 6 years and she thinks this is because she hasn't stopped taking her medication. Judy takes medication for high blood pressure, Sterazine to help her sleep, Procyclidine to control her shaking, Pirodel (lithium) “keeps her in the middle” and an anti-depressant (Citalopram). Judy experiences side-effects such as sleepiness, and found it difficult to stay awake towards the end of the interview. Judy has to carefully time when she takes her medication and take a nap during the day in order to manage this sleepiness. Judy's support worker at Rethink thought that Judy was sleeping too much as a result of the dose she was taking, and after discussions with Judy's psychiatrist, the dose is gradually being reduced. 

Judy says that the hospital is the only mental health service available in Jamaica. Judy uses services provided by Rethink, the mental health charity. Judy feels she has been treated well by services in the UK.

To manage her symptoms, Judy goes to a sewing class and attends an exercise class. She once tried reflexology and enjoyed it. Judy is Roman Catholic and felt she is helped by the prayers said by people at the prayer group she used to attend in Jamaica and the church she attends in the UK. Judy finds comfort in prayer and attends church with her husband.

Judy met her husband here in the UK, and they married in Jamaica last year. Her husband is a source of support and comfort to Judy, accompanying her to doctors' appointments.


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