Kingston, Jamaica - Tuesday, March 14, 2023, marked a historic moment as the Ministry of Health and Wellness (MoHW), Jamaica, launched a community initiative at the Spanish Court Hotel to promote mental wellness – the Problem Management Plus (PM+). The launch saw over one hundred and twenty persons in attendance.
PM+ was developed and tested by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a scalable psychological intervention for adults experiencing stress and anxiety. It is particularly useful in communities that do not have many specialists. The intervention is developed to assist people with mild depression, anxiety, and stress, whether exposure to adversity has caused or contributed to these problems.
The MoHW adapted the programme to the Jamaican context to foster community engagement in promoting family and community mental wellness and resilience. Whilst addressing the noted demand for mental health services, the programme aims at mitigating the impact of stigma and discrimination surrounding mental health and care. Communities have been shown to foster connectedness and act as a powerful source of support.
Mr. Ian Stein, PAHO/WHO Representative for Jamaica, in attendance, commended Minister Tufton and the team at the MoHW for their leadership and support and having the foresight to see the potential benefits in implementing the programme. He also commended the Faith-based and Community-based Organizations in their enthusiasm and willingness to be a part of the programme.
“We need to foster more community engagement. Communities can foster connectedness and act as a powerful source of support. In times of distress, being able to lean on a community can be an essential aspect of self-care. We have also found that coordination in mental health and providing psychosocial services, including community engagement, should be a priority in emergencies,” said Mr. Stein.
These organizations already provide psychosocial support to the community and the PM+ will enhance the skills of the volunteers and provide a more structured approach to Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS). Volunteers are trained in basic helping skills, stress management techniques, and signs and symptoms of common mental health disorders. These trainings are free of cost to the volunteer.
The keynote speaker, Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr. The Honourable Christopher Tufton lauded the PM+ Intervention as the best attempt at normalizing mental wellness due to the community approach that is utilized in the service delivery. Minister Tufton lamented that we are a society in distress with too many manifestations of fears, uncertainties, and disaffection despite our pride and sense of accomplishment.
"We cannot only speak about our achievements as a people and ignore the challenges he emphasized. The time has come for us to assess, recalibrate, and respond to the factors that contribute to the distress. We need to normalize the response that will help persons out of their distress. PM+ can provide that space where persons can be heard without judgment. The goal is to have persons in every community trained to know the signs of distress and who will also be receptive and allow this expression to occur."
The Chief Medical Officer for Jamaica, Dr. Jacqueline Bisasor-McKenzie, provided the Opening Remarks on behalf of the MoHW and thanked the Pan American Health Organization for their support. She applauded the faith-based and community-based organizations who have provided the personnel and a safe place for community members to talk about their problems and work through the solutions and noted the initiative was long in coming.
Over several months, PAHO supported the MoHW in training 120 volunteers, which includes 7 Master Trainers, 34 Supervisors, and 84 Providers. At the launch, awards were presented to the most outstanding organization within each region. The award for the North-East Region went to Moore Town SDA in Portland, and for Southern and Western Regions, the award went to the SDA circuit of churches in Clarendon, and St. James, respectively. The Church of God received the award in the South-East Region.