The Ministry of Health & Wellness is working with Senator Dr Saphire Longmore to get a team of mental health professionals into schools this week, as part of ongoing efforts to bring wellness resources to youth. The initiative reflects the collaboration of the Health Ministry and the Ministry of Education & Youth, in line with plans announced by Minister of Health & Wellness, Dr Christopher Tufton in his Sectoral presentation in May.
According to Dr Tufton, concerns around mental health must be addressed as the island attempts to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. “Even before COVID-19, mental health was a significant issue in our society. It continues to be an issue of national priority, with many Jamaicans suffering in silence due to the stigma associated with mental illness. Our response is to focus on mental wellness and this requires an all-of-society approach,” the Minister said at the time.
He added that the planned efforts include promoting better understanding and acceptance that mental health issues can affect anyone, with a specific effort to enhance the mental wellness of our children; and supporting the concept and techniques of mental wellness as part of our coping mechanism.
This week’s efforts involve the Jamaica Psychiatric Association, of which Longmore is the current president; and the Jamaica Psychological Association. The professionals will visit some 32 secondary schools islandwide between Monday, June 27 and Thursday, June 30.
During the visits, the students will get the opportunity to explore the four dimensions of health, namely the spiritual, the physical, the social, and the mental. The sessions – which are to benefit an additional number of schools that are to join virtually – are also to expose them to coping skills for stress and share available resources.
The resources include:
- the 888-SAFE-SPOT (888-723-3776) helpline for children up to 18 years old, which can also be accessed via WhatsApp at 876-439-5199 or through direct message @safespotja on Snapchat and Instagram;
- the U-Matter Chatline for 16-24 years olds that is accessible by texting SUPPORT to 876-838-4897, and via Instagram and Facebook Messenger @ureportjamaica.
There is also the Mental Health & Suicide Prevention Helpline, 888-NEW-LIFE (888-639-5433).