U-Matter mental health chatline surpasses 2,000 sessions
KINGSTON, Jamaica − More than 2,000 counselling sessions have been delivered by counsellors at the U-Matter Mental Health Chatline, in the one year since it began operations.
The counsellors provide free, confidential and anonymous text-based mental health service targeting Jamaican youth aged 16-24.
U-Matter was launched last March by the Ministry of Health & Wellness, in collaboration with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to help young people with mental health challenges that were made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The service is delivered via UNICEF’s U-Report youth messaging service, with support from the Caribbean Child Development Centre (CCDC) at The University of the West Indies’ (UWI) Open Campus.
“The Ministry remains committed to providing effective and accessible mental wellness services,” noted Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton, Minister of Health & Wellness.
“U-Matter is one such service and its sustained growth, partnerships and the commitment of volunteer counsellors have the service well poised to scale-up its operations and to meet the demand of Jamaican youth in need of this kind of support,” he added.
UNICEF Representative to Jamaica, Olga Isaza said she is encouraged by the progress of the line over the last 12 months.
“UNICEF stands ready to support further initiatives that prioritise the mental health of young Jamaicans,” she said.
“Research shows that up to 60 per cent of those treated at hospitals for attempted suicides are adolescents and young people under age 24. And so having access to trained persons who can listen and help youth find their own solutions can not only save live but help make steady improvements," Isaza added.
Youth can chat free, confidentially and anonymously with a U-Matter counsellor by texting the word SUPPORT to U-Report at 876-838-4897 on WhatsApp and SMS (free texts for Flow customers); or @ureportjamaica on Instagram or Facebook Messenger.
So far, 88 per cent of U-Matter users indicate that they would contact the service again and 85 per cent would recommend it to a friend.
“That we've reached this landmark number shows two things. The first is the need to provide a listening ear for our young people to help them work out their own problems. The second is the strong commitment of our volunteers to provide the best possible service for youth, which is helping to build this sustainable model,” noted Ceceile Minott, head of the CCDC and director of the Consortium for Social Development and Research at The UWI Open Campus.
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.
For more information about UNICEF and its work for children in Jamaica, visit www.unicef.org/jamaica.