Minister of Health and Wellness Dr Christopher Tufton says Jamaica’s suicide numbers are worrying and the country is on track to double the number of cases reported for 2023.
Jamaica recorded 34 cases of suicide in 2021 and the numbers more than doubled the following year to reach 64. Since the start of 2023, the minister said Jamaica has already recorded 14 cases of suicide.
While speaking at the launch of the Problem Management Programme Plus (PM+) today (March 14), Tufton said Jamaica is experiencing an unusual level of distress that has to be responded to and treated.
“Those numbers represent a worrying trend in the country, but indeed globally and particularly in a post-COVID environment where mental health has become a big part of the response, due to what we consider or classify as the side effects of COVID,” said the minister.
He added that the effects of COVID have resulted in psychosocial imbalance because of isolation, fear, uncertainty and other factors and the Government has to respond and treat mental health with as much urgency as they did the COVID-19 pandemic.
In addition to the increase in suicide cases, Jamaica is also seeing an increase in the number of calls to suicide hotlines, as citizens continue to reach out for support, said Tufton.
He shared that, in 2022, the ministry’s 1-888 NEW LIFE (639-5433) help line received 2,190 calls, an increase of 542 when compared to the year before. The suicidal call category also recorded 236 calls, which is 131 more than the previous year.
“More people are reaching out which is a good sign because at least you recognise that you have a problem and you’re willing to seek a solution as oppose to trying to internalise that problem, which could be quite self destructive,” said Tufton.
He added that there has also been a significant increase in schizophrenia calls. In 2022, he shared that Jamaica recorded 183 schizophrenia calls, an increase from five calls in 2021.
Additionally, there were 62 emotional distress calls received, 161 calls related to depression and 112 related to intimate relationships.
PM+ is a programme that will see community leaders being trained to introduce coping strategies and problem-solving skills to clients to help them manage the various adversities of life. The ministry said that, through the programme, it is hoped that the mental wellness of Jamaicans will be improved.
If you are someone struggling with suicidal tendencies or know someone who is struggling with suicide, contact the Ministry’s Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Helpline at 888-NEW-LIFE (639-5433) for mental health support.
Jamaicans aged 13-29 can join U-Report and access the suicide prevention tips by messaging the word “HELP” to U-Report via the two messaging services upon which it operates in Jamaica: @ureportjamaica on Facebook Messenger; or 876-838-4897 on SMS (text messages are free for FLOW customers thanks to sponsorship by the mobile network).
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