Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton, says that volunteers of the recently launched COVID-19 Mental Health Response Programme, will play an important role in the island’s community based response.
“These men and women [volunteers] will man the programme, which is intended to mitigate the progression of mental health issues that have or are anticipated to surface during this COVID pandemic. We have seen it surfacing and we believe that it will last throughout this pandemic,” he outlined, at the Ministry’s digital COVID-19 Conversation, held at the S Hotel in Montego Bay, St. James, on October 8.
“Volunteers will be trained to help to create a sense of belonging and to provide some comfort to those who are in their communities and are suffering because of the isolation associated with the COVID restrictions,” he said, adding that a manual for the programme is being approved by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).
Dr. Tufton pointed out that the programme will serve to sharpen the skill sets of the island’s health care workers and community volunteers.
The Minister explained that the programme was conceived because of the need to provide support for citizens who have been struggling with depression and other mental issues during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The pandemic has resulted in elevated levels of anxiety and stress among senior citizens and young persons alike. [It] has brought into sharp focus the need for a mental health response. What is also [being discovered] by mental health teams on the ground is that conditions, such as acute psychosis, adjustment disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder and protracted grief reactions appear to be on the rise,” Dr. Tufton outlined.
“It is [against] this background and [acknowledging] the vulnerabilities of our older persons, that we have launched the COVID-19 Mental Health Response Programme to be manned by an essential group of volunteers and professionals,” Dr. Tufton added.
The Minister informed that the programme will include a mass media campaign, which will promote mental health as well as the prevention of mental illness.
Another component of the initiative, Dr. Tufton outlined, is to encourage persons to call the Ministry’s mental health hotline at 888- NEW LIFE (639-5433).
The focus came as the country observed Mental Health Awareness Week, culminating in World Mental Health Day on Saturday (October 10).
The theme of the event was: ‘COVID-19, Mental Health and Tourism’.