Current Affairs

Current Affairs




Ministry launches $6-m mental health awareness campaign
Observer Reporter
Friday, April 04, 2003



WRIGHT... objective of the programme is to educate the country on good mental health, how to achieve it, how to manage disorders and how to deal with persons who do not enjoy good mental health.

THE Ministry of Health on Wednesday launched a $6-million mental health promotion campaign to raise public awareness of the importance of maintaining good mental health and destigmatising mental illness.

The theme of the campaign is 'There is no good health without good mental health.'

"We believe very strongly that it is necessary... for the simple reason that this is a major problem in our society. It is estimated that over 500,000 persons or roughly 20 per cent of Jamaica's population are living with mental health disorders," said Dr Earl Wright, director of mental health and substance abuse in the Ministry of Health.

Wright, who was speaking at a function held at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in Kingston, said the campaign would take a multifaceted approach which would include the use of the electronic and print media, advertising, public meetings and discussions with opinion leaders.

By mid April the ministry should start running 40 three to four-minute skits as well as thirty-second public service announcements.

"Mental health is not just the absence of a mental disorder. It is a state of well-being in which the individual realises his or her own abilities, is able to cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully and is able to make a contribution to his or her community," said Wright. "Mental health is the springboard for thinking, for communication skills, for learning, emotional growth, resilience and self esteem.

Persons who do not enjoy good mental health cannot perform at their best, be it at work, at school, in personal relationships or simply as members of society," he said. The objective of the programme, he added, was to educate the country on good mental health, how to achieve it, how to manage disorders and how to deal with persons who do not enjoy good mental health.

"Another objective is to reduce, if not eliminate the stigma attached to mental disorders in this country," he said. "We also want to reposition mental health in people's minds, to the point where everybody will understand that, at some point in their life, they will have a mental health problem that they will need to take care of."

At the same time Minister of Health John Junor said that the Emergency Crisis Intervention and Outreach Programme aimed at assisting families who are dealing with mental health problems, would be strengthened.

Five vehicles, he said, would be dispatched into the different health regions to boost the current services.

"We cannot deny that the experience of seeing a family member going through an acute episode of mental illness (going off the head as we say in Jamaica), can be one of the most frightening experiences for the family," he said. "Ongoing treatment for the difficult patient who is resistant to taking their medication, is also challenging for many families. These new vehicles are to be used for the assertive outreach programmes and should greatly enhance the service that can be provided at the community level for these patients and their families."

The ministry's initiative, Junor said, came against the background that estimates from the World Health Organisation project indicates that mental health and behavioral disorders represented five of the top leading disease burdens worldwide, for the age group 15-44 years old. Depression, he said, was one of the major mental health problems in Jamaica with over 186,800 persons suffering from the disease. Another 20,000 persons, he added, were suffering from psychosis.