Health ministry to tackle growing mental illness in western Jamaica

Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr Christopher Tufton, addresses clients at the Committee for the Upliftment of the Mentally Ill (CUMI) Rehabilitation Centre in Montego Bay, St James, during a visit to the facility on Thursday (Oct 24).

Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr Christopher Tufton, says the Ministry is working to implement a number of intervention strategies to deal with the increase in the number of mental health cases in Western Jamaica.

Speaking with journalists following a visit to the Committee for the Upliftment of the Mentally Ill (CUMI) Rehabilitation Centre in Montego Bay, St. James, Dr Tufton note that data show that mental health cases in the western region rose from 2,000 in 2001 to 6,000 in 2018, which indicates a need to “amplify the responsiveness of the system to treat with that challenge”.

He adds: “The statistics in these parts [Hanover, Trelawny, St James and Westmoreland], suggest that more persons are coming forward, which is encouraging, but also indicate the state of the problem of mental illness.”

 Against that background, Dr Tufton says the Ministry will be increasing the staff complement for mental health professionals in the western region, as part of efforts to “shore up mental health service”.

‘Already, we have started to train some mental health aids to deploy to try and improve that system.’

— Dr Christopher Tufton

The minister says: “From a policy perspective, we will engage more practitioners in the field – mental health nurses, psychiatrists, occupational therapists and social workers – so people can be reintegrated into the world of work. We are now reviewing that [policy] in order to see where the gaps are and how we can improve that over time. Already, we have started to train some mental health aids to deploy to try and improve that system,” he explained.

Minister of Health and Wellness Dr Christopher Tufton and Regional Psychiatrist at the Western Regional Health Authority (WHRA), Lisabeth Crossman.

Dr. Tufton notes, further, that the Ministry is progressing with its efforts to end the stigma against mental illness through the Speak Up, Speak Now campaign.