Ministry conducts ‘wellness check-in’ at Denham Town High School

THE Ministry of Health and Wellness continued its promotion of mental wellness among youth, with a ‘wellness check-in’ at the west Kingston-based Denham Town High School on Tuesday.

Leading the ministry’s team was Minister of Health Dr Christopher Tufton, who offered positive tips and advice to boost the confidence, reduce stress and strengthen the mental health of the students at the school in the gritty inner-city community.

This formed part of the School Mental Health Literacy Programme which will see the ministry doing wellness check-ins at a number of high schools across the island ahead of the start of the summer holidays.

The programme, which is being done in collaboration with the Ministry of Education and Youth, is designed to create a positive mindset among students and address disorderly conduct.

Speaking to the Denham Town High students, Tufton encouraged them to have confidence in themselves and their ability to succeed.

“We are here to help you to understand that you can become anything that you want to be and we want you to become something in life. What lasts more than anything else is education, skills, and every one of you has the ability to have a skill.

“Good health and prosperity come with the right mindset and attitude, and none of you is less than anybody elsewhere. You can do anything you want, all you have to do is set your mind to it,” said Tufton.

He contended that mental health challenges are now more a norm than an exception, and so “we cannot only intervene to cure but also to preserve and to sustain lifestyle practices that allow us to cope and be the best that we can be”.

According to Tufton, while schools help to inculcate good habits they are also fertile ground for bad habits.

At the same time, principal of Denham Town High, Donovan Hunter, said the visit of the minister was a “welcome intervention”.

He expressed optimism that with support, “We will see a transformation of our institution in terms of student behaviour and academic performance”.

The School Mental Health Literacy Programme will equip educators, school nurses and guidance counsellors to administer “mental health first aid” to the targeted students.

More than 500 school professionals will be trained, who will, in turn, train others to impart the learning to more than 21,000 students across 177 schools islandwide.

The goal of the programme, which is being implemented at a cost of $10 million, is to equip students with competencies in mental health literacy.

This includes understanding how to optimise and maintain good mental health; understanding mental disorders/treatments; reducing stigma; and enhancing help-seeking efficacy, which is knowing when/where to get help and having the skills to promote self-care and to obtain good care.

A recent U-Report poll — done by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) — showed the vast majority of respondents calling for more support to be provided to Jamaican children facing mental health challenges.

The poll, which was conducted by UNICEF in association with the Jamaica Observer to mark Child Month 2023, found that 83 per cent of the 214 respondents believe Jamaica is short of proper support structures for children who face mental health challenges.

A number of the respondents called for a mental health day for high school students. They also suggested “free mental health care from licensed therapists who don’t force prayer as the answer to all problems”, and that justices of the peace be trained as mental health counsellors for communities.

The health ministry’s School Mental Health Literacy Programme continued on Wednesday with Tufton and his team visiting the Bridgeport High School in Portmore, St Catherine.