The Ministry of Health and Wellness has implemented a number of initiatives to address the risk factors for suicide in the country. These include barriers to accessing healthcare, inappropriate media reporting on cases of suicide, access to means of committing suicide, and stigma associated with help-seeking behaviour.
This was disclosed by Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton, in a message to mark World Suicide Prevention Day, on Thursday, September 10.
“The Ministry is keen on addressing those risks through a range of initiatives, including the implementation of the Primary Care Renewal Model, which has as its main objective to improve access to comprehensive and timely healthcare services, which will include mental health services,” he said.
According to the Minister, another important approach to preventing suicide is encouraging healthy lifestyle choices, which is at the core of many of the Ministry’s policies and programmes.
“The Ministry is finalising an Alcohol Policy to reduce the harmful use of alcohol, which is a risk factor for suicidality,” he said.
Dr. Tufton cited ongoing training of primary healthcare workers, “to provide initial care and referral of persons with mental health and substance use disorders, which are risk factors for suicide”, as being pivotal given the fact that primary healthcare staff are vital links and first contact between the community and the healthcare system.
The Ministry has launched its media campaign, ‘Speak Up, Speak Now’, the second phase of which begins in September. According to the Health and Wellness Minister, it “is aimed at raising awareness about mental health, with the goal to reduce stigma and discrimination against persons living with mental illness, thus mitigating a barrier to accessing mental health service”.
A 24-hour toll-free Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Helpline (888-NEW LIFE/888-639-5433) has also been set up to afford persons reliable access to initial counselling and appropriate intervention to mental health crises, including suicidal intent or attempts.