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Chief Education Officer in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information, Dr. Kasan Troupe.
Photo: Michael Sloley

Story Highlights

  • “The programme will address the emotional challenges in our education system, because there are disruptions from time to time …and with the COVID-19 presenting its own challenges, there is always a heavy demand on the Ministry grief team or crisis response team,” Dr. Troupe says.
  • The implementation of the first phase of the programme, including planning, training and the first set of cohorts introduced to the initiative, is expected to last for a year.
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) Child and Adolescent Mental Health Fact Sheet 2017, indicates that 70 percent of mental illnesses emerge by age 14, but it takes 10 years for diagnosis.

Administrators, teachers and guidance counsellors are benefiting from a Mental Health Literacy Programme which is being implemented by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information with support from the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO).

Chief Education Officer in the Ministry, Dr. Kasan Troupe, tells JIS News that the main goal of the programme is to improve the mental health literacy of students, age 13 to 16, in schools across Jamaica.

The initiative which was designed before the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, is being scaled up as part of the Ministry’s strategy to ensure that school personnel are equipped with the necessary skills to deal with the increase mental health issues which may present in students.

Dr. Troupe points out that the development of mental health literacy is a necessary foundation for mental health promotion, prevention and care.

She tells JIS News that under the programme, the train the trainer method will be used and that sensitization has already started with Ministry staff such as education officers, guidance counsellors and social workers.

“The programme will address the emotional challenges in our education system, because there are disruptions from time to time …and with the COVID-19 presenting its own challenges, there is always a heavy demand on the Ministry grief team or crisis response team,” Dr. Troupe says.

She further notes that the Ministry understands the value of good mental health to the society and therefore the wellbeing of all stakeholders is important.

“This intervention is a comprehensive response in terms of all stakeholders, whilst our primary stakeholder is our students, all persons are able to benefit. Therefore, if teachers are not coping well, they are supposed to get support,” Dr. Troupe says.

“We have put in place psychosocial sessions to help our teachers cope, this is a part of our approach because we are conscious that adults too are affected and impacted by national and social crises. So in our response we are treating with all stakeholders, be it academic, administrative, support staff and even parents who receive support through our psychosocial network,” she adds.

The Mental Health Literacy Programme has been implemented where the School Wide Positive Behaviour Intervention and Support Programme (SWPBIS) has been activated.

There are currently 118 such schools island wide and from these, five schools from each of the six Education Regions (30 schools) will be selected to roll-out the initiative in the first phase of the programme.

Dr. Troupe explains that after its implementation in these 30 schools, a baseline will be determined and the impact assessed before rolling out the second phase and total implementation.

The implementation of the first phase of the programme, including planning, training and the first set of cohorts introduced to the initiative, is expected to last for a year.

Mental health literacy consists of four interrelated components: understanding how to obtain and maintain good mental health; understanding mental disorders and their treatments; decreasing stigma related to mental disorders; and enhancing help-seeking efficacy (knowing when and where to seek help and developing competencies designed to improve one’s mental health care and self-management capabilities).

“Schools are ideally placed to help individuals develop good mental health literacy. Not only can students be easily and frugally reached through schools, but teachers, parents, caregivers and others involved in helping young people grow and develop can participate in school based mental health literacy interventions and thus enhance their own mental health literacy,” Dr. Troupe says.

The World Health Organization (WHO) Child and Adolescent Mental Health Fact Sheet 2017, indicates that 70 percent of mental illnesses emerge by age 14, but it takes 10 years for diagnosis.

It further states that untreated mental illness may lead to students exhibiting current and long-term difficulties in schools, homes and communities.

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