The Young Health Programme partnership with UNICEF aims to catalyse a global advocacy movement led by young people for the promotion of healthier lifestyles. The focus is on raising awareness of key issues, empowering young people to advocate, and taking policy action to create meaningful and lasting change.
Reports on mental health in Jamaica underscore a situation of ongoing challenges among adolescents and young people aged 10-24 years.
A joint Ministry of Health & Wellness (MOHW) and UNICEF study in 2014 revealed that adolescents and young people accounted for 60% of all attempted suicides treated at hospitals. In 2017, the Global School Health Survey showed that one out of every four students had considered suicide. A UNICEF U-Report poll conducted in 2018 further highlighted the widespread nature of suicidal ideation among Jamaica’s young people, with 53% of respondents saying that they had considered suicide. However, adolescents are often unable to access counselling support due factors including accessibility of services, violence in their homes and communities, and the stigma and discrimination that persists towards people with mental health challenges.
As part of our partnership, UNICEF Jamaica is supporting the MOHW and the Caribbean Child Development Centre (CCDC) unit of The UWI Open Campus to establish a national “Chatline” to facilitate access to mental health services by adolescents and youth across the nation. This service will reach young people through UNICEF’s U-Partners platform. U-Partners is a tool that allows counsellors to receive anonymous messages via UNICEF’s U-Report social messaging tool and to reply, create cases and refer or escalate where necessary.
First contact support will be provided by Masters-level students supervised by an experienced counselling psychologist, with certified mental health professionals on hand to provide second tier support. Metrics such as caseloads, issues flagged by clients, response time, and referrals will be captured in real time.
The chatline anticipates reaching 9,000 young people with support during 2021,and a two-year transition plan is in place for the MOHW to absorb the operational costs of the chatline service from its central budget to ensure its continuation.
Youth-led policy change
In collaboration with the Jamaica Youth Advocacy Network, youth will participate in the development of updated national government plans on young people's health. This will ensure that island-wide consultations are held with young people on critical health-related issues, including prevention of NCDs, and that youth are represented on task teams and review committees.
Schools in Jamaica moved online in March 2020 as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Our partnership helped to develop televised NCD education lessons to ensure that students, especially those without internet access, could continue learning from home. These lessons reached 3,000 adolescents through the Jamaica Moves in Schools programme during 2020.
Substance use learning modules on Voices of Youth focusing on Jamaica
Our partnership is developing an open-access learning series for young people around the world. Hosted on UNICEF’s Voices of Youth website, modules tackle topics such as alcohol and tobacco use, air pollution, healthy eating, data use for advocacy, mental health, and active lifestyles. Each module is developed collaboratively by UNICEF technical specialists, young activists and leaders, and youth designers, and consists of four key components:
· youth perspective videos and blog posts
· key fact infographics
· a questionnaire to stimulate inquiry-based learning
· ideas for young people to take action within their communities and on social media
A new module will be launched each month during the first half of 2021, and followed-up with interactive quizzes, Q+A sessions, and mini-guides related to the module. The substance use module ‘Let’s talk alcohol and tobacco’ was launched in February and shares perspectives from young poeple in Jamaica.
Photo Credit: ©Unicef/Dawe19
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