JIS News

Story Highlights

  • In a bid to end mental health stigma, the Ministry of Health and Wellness has launched a new campaign that provides a platform from which people can share their stories of mental illness.
  • The campaign, dubbed ‘Speak Up, Speak Now’, was launched by portfolio Minister, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton, during a ceremony at the Bellevue Hospital in downtown Kingston, on Thursday (October 10).
  • It seeks to raise awareness about mental illness and the ways in which people are affected, stimulate a national conversation on mental health in Jamaica, and promote behaviour change to end the stigma against persons living with mental illness.

In a bid to end mental health stigma, the Ministry of Health and Wellness has launched a new campaign that provides a platform from which people can share their stories of mental illness.

The campaign, dubbed ‘Speak Up, Speak Now’, was launched by portfolio Minister, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton, during a ceremony at the Bellevue Hospital in downtown Kingston, on Thursday (October 10).

It seeks to raise awareness about mental illness and the ways in which people are affected, stimulate a national conversation on mental health in Jamaica, and promote behaviour change to end the stigma against persons living with mental illness.

“The campaign is intended to say to Jamaicans, let us talk about mental illness; let us try to understand what mental illness is as a starting point to addressing the challenge of mental illness. Don’t be afraid, don’t be shy, understand that it is something that we need to deal with,” Dr. Tufton said.

“We want Jamaicans to be unafraid and unapologetic about talking about mental illness, because we believe it is one of the first steps to ending this stigma,” he added.

Dr. Tufton lamented that the average Jamaican is of the view that mental illness means hopeless “mad people”, who should be outcasts that are abandoned or locked up.

That view, he said, has created a society that has been uncaring, insensitive and, more often than not, cruel to those who suffer from mental illness.

“Today, World Mental Health Day (October 10)…. I am challenging the Jamaican people, let us rid our minds of that perception, face the realities around mental illness and deal with it in a way that advances a more progressive and productive arrangement to solving the challenges around mental illness,” Dr. Tufton said.

He reminded that mental illness is no discriminator of persons, noting that it affects those who are in the boardroom, at the highest level of professional attainment, and it also affects those who are on the shop floor, cleaning the bathroom or picking up the garbage.

“So, none of us must feel that we are better than being affected by mental illness,” he advised.

Citing a local survey, Dr. Tufton informed that four of every 10 Jamaicans at some point in their lives will suffer from some form of mental illness, whether anxiety, depression, schizophrenia or other issues.

In addition, one in every five young people suffer from mental illness. In Jamaica, the highest overall prevalence of depression is in the 15 to 24 years, 25 to 34 years and over 75 years age groups.

Also, according to statistics, in Jamaica today, between 45 and 55 persons commit suicide each year based on mental illness. Globally, one million persons take their own lives each year.

Arising out of the campaign, the Health Minister said the Ministry wants to change, in the first instance, the perception around mental illness.

Elements of the campaign include branding and promotion, public awareness and education, documentation and distribution of personal stories and media outreach and sensitisation.

In the meantime, as part of the campaign, a Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Helpline – 888 NEW LIFE (639-5433) was also launched during the event, and will become effective on Monday (October 14).

It will be manned on a 24-hour basis by professional psychologists, who will provide appropriate levels of advice.

In addition, 14 new buses were handed over to the health regions to further assist with community mental health service delivery and response.

The Minister said a recruitment process is also ongoing to bolster the number of mental health professionals to support community response, intervention and support.

The campaign launch coincides with the observance of World Mental health Day 2019 under the theme, ‘Mental Health Promotion and Suicide Prevention’.