Mental health and wellness initiative launched at BB Coke High

JUNCTION, St Elizabeth — Against the backdrop of last month’s brutal beating of student Jaheim Colman, 14, the Government has continued its response with support to the BB Coke High School by launching a mental health initiative there.

The September 28 incident resulted in Colman being hospitalised for a week after he was beaten unconscious by a grade 11 student for stepping on his shoe. A group of boys, who lifted the then injured child and walked 530 metres from the school through the busy town of Junction to a doctor’s office, have been recognised nationally for their heroic act.

Minister of Health and Wellness Dr Christopher Tufton said his ministry has “keen interest” in the well-being of students even as he pointed to the incident.

“I know you are a good school…Every day we run the risk of having a bad experience. We don’t [expect it], but it happens, so what we do in school and in life and in community is to learn to be stronger so we can move on from our bad experience, that is what mental health is all about,” Tufton said on Thursday while addressing BB Coke students.

“Some people think that when we talk [about] mental health it is a man or woman who lies down on the street and has nowhere to go. Every one of us has challenges in our lives that challenges our mental health,” he added.

A wellness bench, Jamaica Moves shirts and stress balls were among the items unveiled and given to students as part of a collaborative effort between the Ministry of Health and Wellness and the Ministry of Education.

“You can find a way and a space to overcome any challenge you are having in life,” Tufton said, referencing the wellness bench as an example.

He encouraged students to seek help from reputable people who they trust to speak about their issues and to utilise the wellness bench as a “safe space”.

“It is called wellness, because it is a bench that you only sit on when you are seeking to relax, talk about positive things. When you are solving a problem, when you are meditating and thinking through something or somebody discussing something with you that is positive,” said Tufton.

Chairman of the school board Cetany Holness said the initiative “will make the school better”.

“We have been doing extremely well in academics and sports and we want to continue on that trend. We don’t want any incident here where we make the news for bad reasons. We want to make the news for a good reason,” he said.

Acting Principal Liteasha Gallimore commended the health and education leaders for supporting the school in promoting mental health awareness.

“We have been proactive in integrating health and wellness initiatives into our curriculum, recognising the vital role they play in nurturing resilient and well-rounded individuals. We believe that a collaborative effort between the education sector and the health sector is essential in fostering a supportive and thriving educational environment for our students,” she said.

“Mental health and wellness are crucial aspects of our overall well-being, often overlooked or stigmatised in many societies. It is imperative that we open conversations or spaces to discuss these topics openly and without judgement. The initiative through the Ministry of Health and Wellness in collaboration with the Ministry of Education provides one such avenue,” she added.