Gov’t To Establish Suicide Helpline

A mental health/suicide helpline is to be established by the Ministry of Health, in partnership with the non-governmental organisation (NGO), Choose Life International (CLI), to provide support to persons in need of assistance.

The helpline, 1-888-NEW-LIFE (1-888-639-5433), will be toll-free, providing 24-hour assistance to persons with mental health issues seeking help.

Minister of Health, Dr Christopher Tufton, who provided details at a CLI World Suicide Prevention Day Seminar on Friday, September 14, at the Jamaica Conference Centre in Kingston, said the helpline will ensure that persons, particularly those suffering from depression and suicidal thoughts, have ready access to a support team.

Dr Tufton said the theme of the seminar, ‘Working Together to Prevent Suicide’, underscores the importance of partnerships in addressing this issue.

Mental illness is more prevalent than we think. When you take a broad perspective, as we have to do as policymakers, researchers and practitioners who are directly involved in the field, you recognise how big a challenge it is, and it is a challenge that no one entity can confront. It requires a holistic approach, understanding and sensitisation in dealing with it,” the Minister argued.

Dr Tufton said the Ministry is engaged in several other initiatives to address the issue of suicide.

The Ministry operates Child Guidance clinics, which offer child and adolescent mental health services, and is looking to conduct assessments to facilitate greater access to these services.

Dr Tufton said there are plans to work with other stakeholders to establish more Teen Hubs, such as the one situated in the Half-Way Tree Transport Centre, which offers homework help, research facilities, counselling and clinical services as well as mental health support. The centre is manned by certified counsellors and peer educators.

According to the Jamaica Health and Lifestyle Survey, depression is one of the main predisposition factors to suicide. The survey suggests that the national estimate of the prevalence of depression was 14.3 per cent, with men at 9.9 per cent and women, 18.5 per cent.

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