Head of SWTRC pleased with mental health responders programme

Head of SWTRC pleased with mental health responders programme

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

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KINGSTON, Jamaica — Head of the Social Work Training and Research Centre (SWTRC), University of the West Indies (UWI) Open Campus, Cerita Buchanan, is proud to see her vision for mental health brought to life through the Mental Health First Responders Programme.

A pilot of the programme was recently concluded, in which 26 first responders from three St Andrew communities were trained as Mental Health First Responders.

The project is being expanded to focus on institutions and will include categories of people such as human resource personnel, police officers and correctional officers.

Buchanan, in an interview with JIS News, that mental health has been near and dear to her ever since working at the University Hospital of the West Indies as a medical social worker.

“I was assigned to Ward 21, which is the mental health ward, and my own experience as a young clinician, working with the mentally ill, caused me to think about how society stigmatises persons with mental health,” she said.

The SWTRC head explained that what she experienced on the ward, which had mental health patients from all walks of life, including students and doctors, made her think that the general populace did not understand that everyone is susceptible.

“We stigmatise persons as being mentally ill or we call them 'mad' and we don't realise the implications,” Buchanan said.

“I was interested in mental health, not just from the illness perspective but how it impacts families. I worked a lot with families and communities when persons were to return home from the ward. That passion was what I took with me to the centre,” she added.

Her work at the Centre, she said, is fuelled by that passion as well as the understanding that social work is key in mental health.

Acknowledging that the Ministry of Health and Wellness is doing a large amount of work in this regard, the decision was made to support the work of the ministry.

“I really love that thrust that we have now for mental health. I think there is a role for the University in this aspect where we can get communities, police officers and others involved through proper training,” she said.

The SWTRC head explained that one important aspect of the programme is knowing who to call or refer a situation to when someone is experiencing mental health issues. This, she pointed out, is different from having a mental illness.

“I realised that many persons were unaware, so I decided that this was something that we really needed to take on,” she explained.

Buchanan acknowledged that the input of the SWTRC is “just the tip of the iceberg,” in terms of the amount of work that is required.

The team will be approaching Corporate Jamaica with the programme and she expressed confidence that some of them will come on board.

She said a number of organisations, having heard about the programme, have already approached the SWTRC to have their Human Resource professionals trained.


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