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Health Ministry, UNICEF reaching more than 1,500 youth with suicide prevention tips

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

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KINGSTON, Jamaica— More than 1,500 young Jamaicans have accessed suicide prevention tips through social messaging tool U-Report, the Ministry of Health and Wellness has reported.

U-Report, pioneered by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) is a digital innovation that allows children and youth aged 13-29 years old to send and receive messages on their mobile phones.

A joint initiative by the Health Ministry and UNICEF saw suicide prevention tips being sent to U-Reporters through a messaging bot on Thursday, October 10, to mark World Mental Health Day.

According to a release by the ministry, the response to this latest U-Report bot comes against the background of urgent mental health challenges affecting children and youth.

The ministry said data showed that 42 per cent of attempted suicides treated at hospital were children. A U-Report poll also conducted over messaging last year indicated that 53 per cent of U-Reporters had considered suicide.

Minister of Health and Wellness Dr Christopher Tufton said there is no question of the value of the U-Report in the promotion of adolescent mental health.

“The U-Report bot on suicide was a way to educate young people and to support them and others in accessing help,” the minister said.

He added that the messaging bot complemented the ministry's 'Speak Up, Speak Now' campaign, which is aimed at breaking down stigma that has prevented people from seeking treatment for mental illness.

UNICEF health specialist, Novia Condell said data generated through U-Report polls and from national surveys highlight that adolescent mental health requires priority attention.

“UNICEF is therefore very pleased to work with the ministry in its drive to offer young people a variety of avenues, including through mobile technology, to learn about mental wellness and access the support they need,” she said.

Jamaicans can now contact the ministry's new Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Helpline at 888-NEW-LIFE (639-5433) for mental health support.

Meanwhile, 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 on which it operates in Jamaica: @ureportjamaica on Facebook Messenger; or 876-838-4897 on SMS (text messages are free for FLOW customers)


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