The Jamaica Red Cross (JRC) has partnered with the Ministry of Health and Wellness to train some 1500 volunteers in Psychological First Aid (PFA), to respond to the growing need for mental health support services amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The PFA trainings, which got underway in December 2020, will see persons across all 14 parishes benefiting from the monthly trainings which will run until the end of 2021.
Since the start of the initiative, over 80 persons have been trained, with the first cohort of volunteers graduating on January 20 at a virtual ceremony hosted by the ministry.
Minister of Health & Wellness, Dr Christopher Tufton, noted that studies reveal that there has been a significant impact on the mental health of persons since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, an issue which the Ministry thought it paramount to address.
He said the response to the mental health programme, which will also be known as the Reach-Out Programme, has been overwhelming and encouraged the graduates, or Reach-Out Rangers, as they will be called, to utilize the training they received to help the most vulnerable in the society.
“What you have learnt represents the best practices and it is up to you to go and deliver. There is a lot that is riding on your shoulders,” said Dr. Tufton.
The Minister underscored the importance of the intervention, particularly for older persons, many of whom, he said, are struggling with feelings of isolation as they now spend most of their time indoors, given their vulnerability to COVID-19.
Expressing her delight at the partnership, JRC President, Hope Munroe, shared that “the Red Cross has long recognized the critical importance of good mental health and that psycho-social support must play a central role in any disaster or emergency response effort.”
She added that the JRC, through its team of experienced and professional mental health experts, remains committed to continue training community members who can provide a listening ear and connect others to services, if needed.
Members of the public who may be experiencing anxiety or other mental health challenges can access mental health support services by calling the Ministry’s Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Helpline at 888-NEW-LIFE (639-5433) or the Red Cross at (876) 325-4091.