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Farewell Dr Freddie Hickling, Psychiatrist to the People

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THE COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically raised the level of mental stress — high even in normal times — because of the trauma of death, illness, confinement in lockdown, and economic deprivation.

Just when we needed him the most, renowned professor of psychiatry Frederick Hickling has died. The nation has lost a commanding presence and the sage healing advice of the popular psychiatrist.

In a career spanning 50 years, Professor Hickling helped to establish a community psychiatric service and pioneered cultural therapy in Jamaica. He is likely to be best remembered for the fresh approaches he introduced while serving as consultant psychiatrist at Bellevue Hospital from 1973-1983.

Undaunted by controversy, Dr Hickling taught the Bellevue staff not to fear the inmates and was a strong believer in the mentally ill remaining at home with family while undergoing therapy. He urged Jamaicans to “own our madness…if we are to develop as an independent and free people”, a thought he expounded on in the best known of his six books, Owning Our Madness.

Facing reality in post-colonial Jamaica (2016). Educated at Wolmer’s Boys’ School, Dr Hickling studied medicine at The University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona and received postgraduate training in psychiatry at the University of Edinburgh.

He served as head of psychiatry at UWI, Mona from 2000 to 2006 before being appointed professor, and did a stint as executive director of the UWI’s Caribbean Institute of Mental Health and Substance Abuse.

His influence was felt beyond the region, for example, in the development of policy on African Caribbean mental health in the United Kingdom.

His research on schizophrenia, personality disorder, community psychiatry, psychotherapy, political psychology and cultural therapy has been published in more than 100 articles in scholarly journals and book chapters in peer-reviewed journals and books.

He was elected a distinguished fellow of the American Psychiatric Association in 2008; a fellow of the Royal College of Psychiatrists UK in 2011; and presented with the Black Psychiatrists of America Andrea Delgado Award for Excellence in November 2010.

In August 2012 he was awarded the Order of Distinction (Commander Class) by the Government of Jamaica.

Originally published: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/editorial/Farewell_Dr_Freddie_Hickling,_psychiatrist_to_the_people