The Ministry of Health & Wellness together with the St. Catherine Health Services yesterday opened the doors to a new child-friendly space that is to serve the mental health needs of young people.
The therapeutic, multi-function, child-friendly space, located on the grounds of the Ewarton Health Centre in St. Catherine, is the result of the Child Protection Compact (CPC) between the Government of Jamaica (GOJ) and the Government of the United States.
The CPC is intended to strengthen the efforts of the GOJ to effectively prosecute and convict child traffickers and to work with civil society to identify victims of child trafficking, to provide trauma-informed care for child victims and to prevent child trafficking in all its forms.
To help to realise those ends, the partnership has, among other things, been using existing infrastructure for the creation of child-friendly spaces across the country.
“We have in this renovated space a vital resource for the protection of our young people from the potential long-term impact of adverse childhood experiences and adverse community experiences,” said Minister of Health & Wellness, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton, who was guest speaker at the official handover and opening, held earlier today in St. Catherine.
According to the Minister, such experiences expose children and adolescents to a range of psychosocial challenges, including substance use, depression, suicide, homicide, sexually transmitted infections, as well as increases in communicable and non-communicable diseases.
It is therefore necessary, the Minister said, that the society prioritises the mental health and wellness of children and adolescents.
“More than 800,000 children live in Jamaica and even taking a conservative figure of 15%, nearly 120,000 of them may have a mental disorder and 5% or 40,000 of them may be suffering from a severe mental disorder,” he noted.
“3,500 children access the Governmental Child and Adolescent Mental Health Facilities offered through the 23 Child Guidance Clinics islandwide with only two operating Monday to Friday,” the Minister added.
According to Dr. Tufton, there is a clear need for more child-friendly spaces where therapy can take place and where more young people can benefit.
The new facility in St. Catherine – where the Child Guidance Clinic currently sees 25 cases during one clinic per month – is just such a space.
“We must continue to act in the best interest of our young people as we have done through the CPC with the renovation of this space. My thanks to the Government of the United States and all the partners, including the Warnath Group and the St. Catherine Health Services, who have made today possible, investing time, money (US$22,000 or JMD3.3 Million) and drive to see it become a reality,” the Minister noted.
The renovated space replaces the existing area that was assigned at the Linstead Health Centre, which afforded limited space and privacy to young clients and their families. It is expected that the mental health team will now be able to schedule an additional number of appointments thus helping more young people to access therapy and tools in support of their mental wellness.