24-hour helpline coming to assist persons with mental illness

Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton speaking at a press conference on Tuesday. (Photo: JIS)

A new 24-hour toll-free helpline will soon be launched by the Ministry of Health and Wellness for persons living with mental illnesses and those affected by the condition.

Minister of Health and Wellness Dr. Christopher Tufton made the announcement at a quarterly press briefing on Tuesday (August 27).

The minister said the system will be housed at an anonymous location, and a Private Branch Exchange (PBX) network has already been acquired for this Helpline, which will accept multiple calls at the same time.

Five psychologists will be employed to man the system, and mental health professionals such as mental health officers, social workers, psychologists and psychiatrists are being trained at the community level to augment the work of the helpline.

‘Mental illness is a big issue in the society.’

— Health Minister DR Christopher Tufton

Already, 30 professionals have gone through training to respond; and police officers, firemen, mental team members and private practitioners will form a part of the network of responders.

“Mental illness is a big issue in the society. The study that we commissioned, through the Mental Illness and Homelessness Task Force, suggests that four out of every 10 Jamaicans at some point in their lives, will be affected by some sort of mental instability. That almost mirrors the global statistics and it’s an increasing trend,” Dr. Tufton said.

“We are very sensitive to the issue, and we have deployed, having done the report, resources to address a number of areas around mental illness [which includes the 24-hour toll free Helpline],” he added.