First batch of 'Reach out Rangers' hits the road


First batch of 'Reach out Rangers' hits the road

Friday, January 22, 2021

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The Ministry of Health's National COVID-19 Mental Health Response Programme dubbed 'Reach Out' saw its first batch of trained 'rangers' graduating on Wednesday.

The programme was developed last year in response to the emergent need among members of our population, including older persons, for psychosocial support associated with the pandemic.

In welcoming the first batch of rangers, Minister of Health and Wellness Dr Christopher Tufton noted that data from the field has revealed an increase in mental health disorders, including acute psychosis and adjustment disorders; anxiety attacks and delirium; as well as post-traumatic stress disorder; and protracted grief reactions.

“This comes against the background of what we know is an extremely stressful time for many individuals, including our young people, and given what we know of mental illness in our local and global contexts,” said Tufton as he pointed a warning from the World Health Organization (WHO) to anticipate increased “levels of loneliness, depression, harmful alcohol and drug use, and self-harm or suicidal behaviour” associated with the pandemic.

“It means, ladies and gentlemen, that we must act quickly and decisively to respond to the needs of those among us who are in need of mental health support. Today's 32 graduates of the Basic Psychological First Aid Training Certification, provided by the Jamaica Red Cross, make up the first cohort of persons who will serve as our 'Reach Out Rangers' to help us do just that,” added Tufton.

He noted that the rangers will serve at the level of their communities, whether as part of targeted local interventions with the ministry's community mental health teams; in service to the ministry's Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Helpline, 888-NEW LIFE (639-5433); and/or as players in the promotion of mental health in the mass media.

“This initial group of graduates ... will see their numbers grow with projections for the training of between 100 and 150 persons in Basic Psychological First Aid each month.

“I am happy to report that the programme is receiving a high level of interest from the Jamaican public. We have, over the last month to two months, received in excess of 130 volunteer applications. We are currently vetting the list of persons and will, in the next week to two weeks, train another 50 persons,”declared Tufton.

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