JIS News

Friday, October 10, will be observed as World Mental Health Day and in keeping with the theme ‘Making Mental Health a Jamaican Priority – Improving Services through Citizens’ Advocacy and Action’, the Ministry of Health, through the Mental Health Services Department, is urging Jamaicans to consider mental wellness as a significant part of their general health care and to begin to actively pursue and defend the rights of the mentally ill.
Speaking yesterday (September 30), at a JIS ‘Think Tank’ session, Director, Mental Health Services, Ministry of Health and the Environment, Dr. Maureen Irons-Morgan, informed that the October 5 to 11 Mental Health Week activities, have been strategically spread across the Ministry’s four health regions – Western, North East, South East and Southern, as part of its inclusive approach adopted to encourage a community and by extension, national ownership of mental health as everyone’s responsibility.
“What we need is advocacy at the grassroots level. Because of this, we are actually focussing on parish level interaction. That is why we are not focussing on a large national conference. What we are expecting and encouraging, is that at the parish level people will be having meetings and getting the people active in advocating the cause of the mentally ill,” she stressed.
“The aim is to get citizens informed about mental health issues and to let them know how they themselves can make a difference. We want people to recognise that this issue of mental health and wellness affects us all,” she emphasised, adding, “we want to get people to understand that they can make a difference through advocacy and through specific action.”
Dr. Irons-Morgan pointed out that advocacy is of extreme importance and can empower people to effect changes in legislation, policy, mental health service delivery, and the overall protection of the rights of persons living with mental illnesses.
“At the end of the discussions,” she noted, “we are hoping to formulate a Citizens Charter, to address the issues discussed in these meetings.”
The activities for Mental Wellness Week, will begin on Wednesday, October 1, with the Proclamation of October 10, as World Mental Health Day, by Governor-General of Jamaica, His Excellency the Most Honourable Professor Sir Kenneth Hall.
On Sunday October 5, the activities will kick off with a church service at the Waterloo Apostolic Church, in Santa Cruz, St. Elizabeth. Other activities in the Southern Region will include displays in parish libraries, community meetings, and a gospel concert in Santa Cruz on Saturday, October 11.
Activities in the Western Region, Dr. Irons-Morgan informed, will include community meetings, a Mental Health Wellness Day for 150 Health Workers on October 8, and a Mental Health Conference, which will be held at the Fiesta Hotel in Lucea, Hanover on October 9.
In the North East, which covers St. Ann, St. Mary and Portland, there will be stakeholders’ meetings and health fairs, while in the South East, residents of Harbour View and its environs will meet at the health centre on October 6, to devise strategies to address the needs of the mentally ill.
“We all need to know how to…prevent mental health disorders and if persons or their families are affected, we need to know how we can best treat the condition as quickly as possible,” Dr. Irons-Morgan explained as she again, underscored the importance of community meetings in encouraging citizen’s advocacy and action.
A mental health awareness march through Spanish Town St. Catherine, led by Advocacy Group ROC MI (Reaching Out and Caring for the Mentally Ill) is planned for October 7.
“The activities are geared towards promoting mental health, increasing public education about mental health and mental illnesses and engendering some amount of public support for the mental health services,” Dr. Irons-Morgan informed.

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