Kingston, June 3. - The Mental Health and Substance Use Unit of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) and the Jamaica PAHO/WHO Country Office facilitated a mental health mission to Jamaica that included the participation of Prof. Benedetto Saraceno, Former Director of the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse in the World Health Organization, and Dr. Claudina Cayetano, Regional Advisor on Mental Health at PAHO in Washington D.C.

The mission’s objectives were to facilitate the setting of priorities with National Health Authorities, design a short-term action plan for strengthening community based mental health services, and build awareness around mental health with relevant partners such as the media, NGOs and members of the academia.

Jamaica 1Prof. Saraceno and Dr. Cayetano were engaged in several consultations with civil society, government partners and other stakeholders. Among the activities was a high-level meeting to explore the application of mental health in all policies and focused on social determinants of health. The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Health chaired the meeting. Senior representatives from several ministries and agencies including the Ministry of National Security, the Correction Services, the Service Commission and Branch heads from the Ministry of Health were also in attendance. Another meeting was organized with national authorities focused on mental health policy, effective delivery of mental health services, as well discussions on the mental health investment case for Jamaica. The report on investment shows that by scaling up select mental health clinical interventions, Jamaica can significantly reduce the burden of mental illness.

An important outcome of the mission was a call from the Ministry of Health for the development of the operational plan for the implementation of the Mental Health Policy considering the Health in all Polices approach, the re-organization of mental health services, and the increase of community mental health services, with a strong focus on intersectoral collaboration. 

As part of this mission, Prof. Benedetto Saraceno delivered a key note lecture at the Regional Headquarters of the University of the West Indies (UWI) on barriers to the implementation of effective strategies for the scaling up of mental health care. The lecture attracted a full house, and it was attended by students and professors of the medical school, family medicine residents, of the psychiatry department and other medical disciplines.