JASL providing mental health support for HIV clients' childrenWednesday, December 01, 2021
WITH the aim of providing holistic care, Jamaica AIDS Support for Life (JASL) has been extending psychological help to the children of its clients as a way of enhancing their mental health.
Medical director at JASL, Dr Jennifer Brown Tomlinson said along with psychological support, the non-governmental organisation tracks the educational progress of students and gives back-to-school assistance.
“They are affected by their parents' diagnosis because usually the parents have difficulties caring for them,” Brown Tomlinson said at the organisation's HIV treatment public forum held at Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston yesterday.
She pointed out that when some children become aware of their parents' HIV diagnosis they tend to suffer from depression and anxiety.
“That is why we really want them to achieve their best possible outcomes – and they cannot do that if they are burdened with these mental health issues,” she said, noting that support is provided for children up to 18 years.
Stressing that psychological support plays a vital role in enhancing the well-being of children, she told the Jamaica Observer after the forum that, “The children are very responsive to the care that they get. It is very important because we want to see the children develop. Without the proper psychological support, sometimes they can't attain any kind of educational achievement or social development, so it's all interlinked.”
The adolescents, she said, are those mostly in need of the care because at that age they are more aware and understand conversations about HIV.
Brown Tomlinson told the Observer that social workers are required to do the social assessment of HIV clients and their immediate relatives.
“They have the responsibility for referring the children, through the clients, to the appropriate services as necessary and also following up on their care to ensure that they are attaining their best possible outcomes. We really rely heavily on the social workers. It might be something simple as providing books for school, but then it might also be something that requires further referral for specialist services – whether it's for medical care, psychological support or just nutritional support,” she said.
JASL's psychological programme is part of a wider behaviour change communication strategy for the improvement of the health outcome of clients. This is done by implementing several interventions to help with the management of clients' conditions.