JAM | May 19, 2023

Children urged to use SafeSpot helpline to access mental health support

/ Our Today

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Children’s Advocate, Diahann Gordon Harrison, addresses a press conference at the Terra Nova All-Suite Hotel in St. Andrew on May 17 (Photo: Contributed).

Children’s Advocate, Dian Gordon Harrison, is encouraging children in need of mental health support to make use of the SafeSpot helpline at 888-723-3776.

The call comes as data from the national child and teen helpline show a worrying mental health condition among some Jamaican children.

SafeSpot is a dedicated toll-free line that is available 24 hours daily, seven days per week and is staffed by intake officers, counsellors and counselling psychologists.

It provides counselling to children and teenagers who require mental, emotional and social well-being assistance.

Children’s Advocate, Diahann Gordon Harrison (left), fields questions at a press conference at the Terra Nova All-Suite Hotel in St. Andrew on May 17, where she presented data from the child and teen helpline, SafeSpot. Looking on is Coordinator of Safespot at the Office of the Children’s Advocate (OCA), Anna-Marie Dawkins (Photo: Contributed).

Gordon Harrison said the Office of the Children’s Advocate (OCA) sees SafeSpot “as an avenue which gives us a direct line into what children are thinking, what they are saying, and what they are experiencing”.

She is also imploring citizens to speak to children about SafeSpot so that they know that the line of support is available to them.

She was addressing a press conference on Wednesday, May 17 at the Terra Nova All-Suite Hotel, St. Andrew.

She said that for the period January to December 2022, the SafeSpot helpline received 2,345 interactions from children as young as three years old.

Of this number, 447 were considered as having undisclosed mental health issues; 133 were from children who experience suicidal ideations or attempted suicide; and 111 were children who were affected by fear and anxiety.

Forty-two per cent of the overall interactors with SafeSpot reside in Kingston and St. Andrew, while 23 per cent indicated they live in St. Catherine.

A breakdown of the data showed that from across all parishes a majority of the contacts identified as females. Portland is the only parish that indicated that more boys were making reports.

Gordon Harrison noted that SafeSpot came about during the COVID 19, when there was a falloff in reports of abuse to the Children Registry.

“We knew that this falloff was not due to a reduction of incidents; however, it was due to an absence of access that children had to make reports,” she pointed out.

This led to a tripartite collaboration involving OCA, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ) to directly connect children with immediate help.

“Being able to give children direct intervention right when they needed it, is what was imperative for us,” Gordon Harrison said, noting that the voices of Jamaica’s children deserve to be heard, amplified and referenced.

SafeSpot is an internationally-recognised member of Child Helpline International, which is a global organisation comprised of helplines from 135 countries and territories around the world. Children can contact the helpline by direct messaging on WhatsApp 876-439-5199 or via Instagram and Snapchat using the handle @safespotja.


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