Jamaica News: A new 24-hour toll-free helpline will soon be launched by the Ministry of Health and Wellness for persons living with mental illnesses and those affected by the condition.
This announcement was made by Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton, at the Ministry’s quarterly press briefing, held on August 27, at the Ministry in New Kingston.
The Minister said the system will be housed at an anonymous location, and a Private Branch Exchange (PBX) network has already been acquired for this Helpline, which will accept multiple calls at the same time.
Five psychologists will be employed to man the system, and mental health professionals such as mental health officers, social workers, psychologists and psychiatrists are being trained at the community level to augment the work of the helpline.
Already, 30 professionals have gone through training to respond; and police officers, firemen, mental team members and private practitioners will form a part of the network of responders.
“Mental illness is a big issue in the society. The study that we commissioned, through the Mental Illness and Homelessness Task Force, suggests that four out of every 10 Jamaicans at some point in their lives, will be affected by some sort of mental instability. That almost mirrors the global statistics and it’s an increasing trend,” Dr. Tufton said.
“We are very sensitive to the issue, and we have deployed, having done the report, resources to address a number of areas around mental illness [which includes the 24-hour toll free Helpline],” he added.
Dr. Tufton also reiterated that one area of mental illness includes depression, which has caused persons to think suicide.
“Of course, there is no recovery from that (committing suicide), not to mention the pain and suffering caused on family members,” he said.
Dr. Tufton said the Ministry of Health and Wellness will be embarking on a programme for the promotion of the helpline, shortly.
A public education campaign is to be launched in September to address stigmatisation, and 14 buses are to come on stream to support the community responses.