National Health Helpline launched
Tuesday, July 7, 2015
by Ministry of Health
The helpline is designed to provide an avenue for those who require support in overcoming challenging mental or emotional states.

The Ministry of Health, last Monday, launched a National Health Helpline geared toward assisting persons dealing with mental, social and emotional issues.

The helpline, accessed by dialing 203, provides a 24-hour service manned by a team of health professionals trained in crisis intervention techniques.

Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Merlene Fredericks, said the helpline is designed to provide an avenue for those who require support in overcoming challenging mental or emotional states.

"Self harm, including suicides, is a growing health problem, and the majority of cases can be linked to underlying mental health illnesses such as depression and schizophrenia, or substance abuse problems such as alcohol and illicit drugs," Dr. Fredericks said.

"As a result, the helpline will be linked to a referral system so that persons in need will be matched to specialists trained in counseling, social work or psychiatry. If a crisis situation arises during a telephone intervention, the Emergency Medical Services will be activated as in any medical emergency."

Dr. Fredericks encouraged colleagues, relatives or friends to call if they believe their loved ones need assistance. She cautioned, however, that the helpline does not replace the role which families, communities and organizations should play.

Kimani Pompelis, whose brother committed suicide in 2007, endorsed the initiative.

"This is a much needed avenue for members of society who have thought of harming themselves," she said, adding that the helpline will help alleviate the fear of being stigmatized for seeking care at a mental health institution.

The National Health Helpline is a joint effort between the Ministry of Health, Wellness, Human Services and Gender Relations and  telecommunications providers LIME and Digicel.

LIME Representative Joseph Augustine confirmed LIME's commitment to the helpline.

"I wish to congratulate the St. Lucia Mental Wellness Centre for their profound dedication. LIME, in partnership with Digicel, is providing access to a 24-hour toll free helpline to enable people to reach out for emotional health and support," he said.

"This is about saving generations, which is critical," Digicel Representative Ms. Louise Victor said.

In officially declaring the National Health Helpline open, Minister for Health, Hon.Alvina Reynolds issued a challenge to her ministry and the country to reduce suicides by ten percent by the year 2020.

The  National Health Helpline was launched at the National Mental Wellness Centre on June 29. The helpline short code is 203.