OCA improves 24-hour helpline initiative

KINGSTON, Jamaica — In an effort to target even more youth, the Office of the Children's Advocate (OCA) says it has improved its 24-hour helpline initiative, SafeSpot.

According to a release, the initiative, now one year old, has launched its first website, which is managed on an integrated system to help improve service efficiency. Individuals can visit the website at www.safespotja.com or call the helpline toll-free at 888-723-3776 or via WhatsApp at 1 (876) 439-5199.

Children’s Advocate, Diahann Gordon Harrison, shared the details during a recent virtual launch.

“We now have a fully integrated call, data management and social media software platform that integrates everything and makes our systems more effective in terms of calculating numbers on a daily and monthly basis and interacting in real time with what the counsellors are doing,” she noted.

Gordon Harrison pointed out that the integration acts as a “buddy system”, which includes features that allow for instant connection to psychologists.

“We think this tool will help to sharpen us more, and of course with the website and social media pages, we’re very hopeful that this will assist us with getting information out there,” she added.

Gordon Harrison said the Office of the Children’s Advocate will continue to leverage communication strategies, while partnering with corporate Jamaica.

Following the launch of SafeSpot in May 2021, the helpline has interacted with more than 2,330 children. Of this amount, 929 received direct interventions for individual counselling. Forty-seven appointments were made with the counselling psychologist within the organisation for ongoing cases, while 29 interactions were referred.

“We’ve had an overwhelmingly disproportionate representation of girls who typically call in. The monthly report in April 2022 [shows] that we had 83 per cent of those contacts being girls, so boys continue to be in the minority,” Gordon Harrison disclosed.

Meanwhile, the most common issues reported include suicidal ideations or self-harm, family problems, feelings of worry or anxiety, sexual molestation, depression, financial assistance, physical neglect and abuse.

Gordon Harrison continues to encourage citizens to share the helpline contact information with children who may need a listening ear to help them cope with difficult situations.

The free helpline is also supported by the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Jamaica, Digicel Foundation, Flow, GraceKennedy, Adlib Studio Jamaica, the British High Commission, Wisynco Group Limited and the National Commercial Bank (NCB).

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