Red Cross to train 1,500 volunteers for mental health programme


Red Cross to train 1,500 volunteers for mental health programme

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

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THE Jamaica Red Cross (JRC) has partnered with the Ministry of Health and Wellness to train some 1,500 volunteers in psychological first aid (PFA) to respond to the growing need for mental health support services amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The PFA training, which got under way last month, will see people across all 14 parishes benefiting from the monthly trainings, which will run until the end of 2021. Since the start of the initiative, more than 80 people have been trained, with the first cohort of volunteers graduating on January 20 at a virtual ceremony hosted by the health ministry.

Speaking at the ceremony, Minister of Health and Wellness Dr Christopher Tufton said studies revealed that there has been a significant impact on the mental health of people since the onset of the pandemic, an issue which the ministry thought was paramount to address. He said the response to the mental health programme, which will also be known as the Reach-Out Programme, has been overwhelming and encouraged the graduates, or Reach-Out Rangers as they will be called, to utilise the training they received to help the most vulnerable in the society.

“What you have learnt represents the best practices and it is up to you to go and deliver. There is a lot that is riding on your shoulders,” said Dr Tufton. He underscored the importance of the intervention, particularly for older people, many of whom, he said, are struggling with feelings of isolation as they now spend most of their time indoors, given their vulnerability to COVID-19.

The minister thanked Jamaica Red Cross for its partnership in delivering the training and noted its experience and capacity in disaster response, of which psychosocial support is a key component. He also extended appreciation to the Pan American Health Organization for its support of the programme.

JRC President Hope Munroe said “the Red Cross has long recognised the critical importance of good mental health and that psychosocial support must play a central role in any disaster or emergency response effort”.

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