26 trained as mental health first responders

January 12, 2021
Cerita Buchanan
Cerita Buchanan

Twenty-six persons from three St Andrew communities were recently trained as mental health first responders.

This was following a pilot programme conducted by the Social Work Training and Research Centre (SWTRC) of the University of the West Indies Open Campus.

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

Head of the SWTRC, Cerita Buchanan, told JIS News that one important aspect of the programme is knowing who to call or refer a situation to when someone is experiencing mental health issues. Buchanan acknowledges that the input of the SWTRC is "just the tip of the iceberg," in terms of the amount of work that is required.

Expressed confidence

The team will be approaching Corporate Jamaica with the programme and she expressed confidence that some companies will come on board. She told JIS News that a number of organisations, having heard about the programme, have already approached the SWTRC to have their human resource professionals trained.

She reiterated that being a mental health first responder is not necessarily about treating psychosis, but in the event that a staff member comes into office with an issue, the human resource professional would know how to respond. Buchanan gave the example of someone experiencing bereavement or just dealing with a difficult matter, indicating that even just the way a first responder interacts with the person and speaks with empathy and compassion to that member of staff would make a difference.

"Those are the types of things that we need to ensure that is done. We have to understand that we all are on the spectrum in terms of mental health. This is where I am hoping that the programme will take us, not just in Jamaica but in the region," she said.

Buchanan says the training would help participants to have an understanding of being a first responder, knowing what to say to not trigger something in the person that is being attended to, knowing who to call, knowing what to do, and what kind of support can be offered in the initial stage.

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