Jamaica has backed the Policy for Improving Mental Health, advanced at the 170th Session of the Pan American Health Organisation’s (PAHO’s) Executive Committee now underway in Washington DC.
“Jamaica commends the PAHO for developing the Policy for Improving Mental Health, in consultation with Member States. We recognise the five strategic lines of action, around which the policy is framed, as critical to regional efforts to improve mental health,” Minister of Health & Wellness, Dr. Christopher Tufton told member states at the meeting Monday.
They include ‘building leadership, governance and multi-sectoral partnerships and integrating mental health in all polices’; ‘improving the availability, accessibility, and quality of community-based services for mental health and substance use’; ‘advancing promotion and prevention strategies and activities throughout the life course’; ‘reinforcing the integration of mental health and psychosocial support in emergency contexts’; and ‘strengthening data, evidence, and research’.
“Jamaica also recognises that the strategic lines of action are in keeping with our own efforts to advance the national mental health agenda which has suffered significant setbacks by the COVID-19 pandemic, and has likewise transformed based on the psychosocial impact of the pandemic,” Dr. Tufton said.
The Minister, who is leading the Jamaica delegation – including Dr. Jacquiline Bisasor-McKenzie, Chief Medical Officer – to the meeting, said those efforts include the existence of the National Mental Health Strategic Plan 2020-2025, which details the planned steps to address the mental health of Jamaicans.
“We have also taken steps to integrate substance use policy and related legislation into the National Mental Health Policy currently being revised and the current Mental Health Act (1997),” Dr. Tufton explained.
Jamaica, he added, is also involved in the Mental Health Gap Action Programme for the training of trainers to provide mental health support within communities. This is in addition to pilot project for Problem Management Plus (PM+), which trains community workers to help others develop problem-solving skills to overcome challenges.
There are efforts, too, to boost mental health literacy in schools and to do a comprehensive assessment of child and adolescent mental health services. Jamaica has also formed an Inter-sectoral Mental Health and Psychosocial Support Technical Working Group that is collecting data on available mental health and psychosocial resources and services.
“This is fundamental to identifying existing gaps, taking steps to address those gaps and for the technical working group to execute its ultimate goal of coordinating mental health and psychosocial support in emergency contexts. Collaboration with the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management will allow for incorporation in national disaster and emergency preparedness plans,” the Minister said.