Jamaica’s Mental Health Act to be Amended to Meet International Standards

Director, Health Services, Planning and Integration in the Ministry, Dr Naydene Williams. (Credit: JIS)

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Wednesday June 12, 2019 – The Mental Health Act of 1997 is being amended to meet international human rights standards and to shift the focus of legislation towards creating a legal framework for providing high-quality, community-based mental health services.

That’s according to Health and Wellness Minister, Dr Christopher Tufton, in a message read by Director, Health Services, Planning and Integration in the Ministry, Dr Naydene Williams, at the First Caregivers Symposium at the University of Technology (UTech) in Kingston, yesterday.

Minister Tufton said greater prioritisation will be given to the mental health sector in the coming months, and as part of the Ministry’s thrust to improve mental health services, work on the National Mental Health Policy and Strategic Plan is being finalized, using the Comprehensive Mental Health Action Plan as a template.

Mental health, as defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) is a “state of well-being in which the individual realises his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community”.

Dr Tufton commended host of the symposium, UTech College of Health Sciences, for the initiative, which he lauded as an important resource in effectively implementing information systems and research for mental health, as well as facilitating commitment towards collaborative actions.

“This is also important since partnerships – whether for resource mobilisation, the execution of projects and programmes or policy formulation or review – are an essential ingredient for ensuring the best possible health outcomes for our people,” he said.

He noted that the symposium’s goals align with the new direction of the Ministry, which is reflected not only in the Ministry’s new name, but also the various initiatives under the announced ‘Wellness Agenda’, which embraces a holistic approach to public health.

These initiatives include the ‘Wellness at Work’ and ‘Wellness at School’ programmes, together with a home-based Wellness Garden and a ‘Better for You’ menu option in the restaurants. All of these take account of the mental health dimension of wellness, the Minister said.

“I have every confidence that participants will succeed in their efforts, helping to inform the Ministry of Health and Wellness’ own next steps in improving mental health in Jamaica,” the Minister said.

The two-day symposium is being held under the theme, ‘Supporting Your Own Mental Health as a Caregiver’. It seeks to improve areas of administration by strengthening leadership and governance. It also seeks to provide comprehensive, integrated and responsive social care services in community-based settings, as well as strengthen the information systems evidence and research for mental health.

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