JIS News

KINGSTON — There has been a push by Government to improve the availability and accessibility to mental health services, with small and other health facilities offering support to persons with the illness.

According to Minister of Health, Hon. Rudyard Spencer, services to mental health patients have been integrated into general health services.

“These services are now offered at 139 locations, including health centres, hospitals and outpatient departments,” the Minister said in a message read by Director of Health Promotion and Protection in the Ministry of Health, Dr. Eva Lewis-Fuller, at a World Mental Health Day symposium, held on October 14, at the Alhambra Inn, in Kingston.

“We are also ensuring that there is access to services at the community level. The community mental health service has an assertive outreach programme, which brings mental health care to this population and also connects them to existing services. Each Regional Health Authority has a crisis response team which can be contacted for psychiatric help,” the Minister added.

Nothing that some 20 per cent of the population is affected by mental issues, the Minister pointed out that in 2008, some 4,493 persons were discharged from hospitals after being treated, with 56.3 per cent being males.  He also called on all Jamaicans to give protection to affected persons.

“Each of us, as citizens of this country, has a responsibility to protect the rights of these affected individuals and their families. Stigma and discrimination remain a major challenge to the efforts of the Ministry, and to the desire of families and individuals to seek and remain in treatment as well as to live a normal life, once they have the mental health issue under control. Any investment that we make in mental health has to take this issue into consideration,” Mr. Spencer said.

He pointed out that in dealing with mental health issues, and in particular, protecting the mentally ill, “there has to be a community oriented approach, not just through the offerings of the Ministry, but also the community embracing and assisting persons with mental disorders, and not abusing, attacking, scorning or neglecting them. The support of the family and community is integral to any successful programme,” the Minister argued.

The symposium was held under the theme: ‘The Great Push: Investing in Mental Health’, with presentations by health professionals, members of support groups and other organisations.


By Garfield L. Angus, JIS Reporter

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