“Mental health challenges are now more a norm than an exception, and so we cannot only intervene to cure but also to persevere and to sustain lifestyle practices that allow us to cope and be the best that we can be. The school is fertile soil for developing good habits. It is also fertile soil for bad habits, and so we have to start there,” noted Minister of Health & Wellness, Dr Christopher Tufton.
The Minister was speaking at the official launch of the programme, held at the Grand Palladium Jamaica Resort & Spa in Hanover, during the training of a group of more than 40 master trainers drawn from both ministries today.
Training Mental Health Trainers
The School Mental Health Literacy Programme will see more than 500 school professionals training over the next three months. They will, in turn, train others who will impart the learning to more than 21,000 grade-nine students across 177 schools islandwide.
The goal of the programme, implemented to the tune of upwards of JMD 10 million, is to see those trained, including the students, provided with competencies in mental health literacy, notably:
- understanding how to optimise and maintain good mental health;
- understanding mental disorders and their treatments;
- decreasing stigma; and
- enhancing help-seeking efficacy is knowing when and where to get help and having the skills necessary to promote self-care and obtain good care.
The launch of the programme comes against the trauma experienced by youth who have lost friends to violence. Or themselves are the perpetrators of violence, at physical and mental health risks to themselves, are using substances, including the party drug molly, edibles, tobacco, and alcohol.
There is also the recent experience of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has come with many side effects, not the least of which is the impact on the mental wellness of youth. Many were and continue to experience loneliness, anxiety and depression. All continue to make the adjustment to a reopened face-to-face classroom.