Gov’t to focus on mental health interventions for Jamaicans

growing concerns about mental health, the Government will be pursuing a robust intervention to support that issue, which has been plaguing many people across the country.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness made that disclosure during the third annual National Day of Prayer, held under the theme ‘Teach Us True Respect for All’, at the National Arena in Kingston.

While wishing church leaders, worshippers, his Cabinet, among others a ‘Happy New Year’ sequentially, as he expressed gratitude that God has spared our lives to see another year, he reflected on those who have lost their lives.

“There is nothing wrong in seeking happiness, absolutely nothing and sometimes there are persons who have given up on the pursuit of happiness. It is very sad reading the papers, or seeing the reports of persons who no longer have any value for their life or the lives of their loved ones,” said Holness.

“It is always very hurtful to me when I see these reports of someone saying, ‘I am going to end your life and I am going to end my life’. What could have happened to them to have lost the fear of God to respect lives? Something went wrong,” he said.

His statement came a day after a Mandeville couple Keith and Stephanie Ellis was found dead in a suspected case of murder-suicide at their home on Bonnitto Crescent in the parish.

While the prime minister refrained from making a specific reference to that case, he said more instances of people killing themselves and taking the lives of others are developing.

“The Government will be pursuing a direct and deliberate programme with the churches to have a more robust intervention to support mental health in the country,” he said.

“I don’t want to call any cases in particular, but as you see the cases emerging of people taking lives and taking their own lives you wonder, was there any intervention? Did they have anyone to talk to? Was there any early intervention? Were there signs of this is violence to come that we could have intervened early and stop?” Holness added.

He pointed to one of his previous addresses, where he noted that while the Government makes policies and laws, it also has the duty to develop the “heart-ware” of men.

“The heart-ware is an important part of public policy. How people think, how they behave, what they do and sometimes Government falls short because we are looking at the economics, the infrastructure, and we are looking at the laws and we feel sometimes it is not the domain of the Government to try and spark a social and cultural revolution in morality. But more and more, we are seeing that governments have to pay attention to the mental health of the population,” he said.

Holness also noted that Jamaicans should reach out to someone to talk to, not only spiritual well-being but “anything at all”, as too many of them embrace the idea of tackling problems on their own.

“I know a lot of that is being done in the Church but we Jamaicans have a cultural thing among us where we believe that ‘Wi likkle but wi tallawah’, we can take on problems that are bigger than us and it is particularly the case of our men. They keep the problem inside, they don’t talk about it, and then one little thing happens — a man step on your toe, somebody says something wrong to you and you explode and as a result of that a life is taken,” he said.

“A part of the heart-ware strategy that I will be sitting down with the Church to discuss, is how can we have greater interventions, how can we use the Church nationally for these kinds of interventions. We need to start a public education campaign, not just from the Government, not just from the Ministry of Health but also from our churches and all other entities to get our Jamaicans to change this culture of not trying to seek help when they are in crisis.”

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