Responding to a call from the World Health Organization (WHO) to adequately cushion and mitigate the emotional and psycho-social backlash from the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ministry of Equity, Social Justice and Empowerment is playing a lead role in beefing up Saint Lucia’s social support services.
The latest efforts in that regard were realized last week, via a three-day training programme that sought to equip Community Outreach Volunteers from all seventeen constituencies on Saint Lucia, in better managing the myriad of social issues plaguing residents within communities. Social Transformation Officer Fedora Justin Alcindor noted: “They’ll be getting training on conflict resolution, substance abuse, gender-based violence, psycho-social support and mental health; those critical areas that we see issues arising within the communities. So those persons will be getting those skills in order to give support to residents within their communities.”
Funding for the latest training came from the Saint Lucia Hospitality and Tourism Association under its Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF) initiative. With tourism being the main economic driver employing thousands of persons and impacting the lives of even more households indirectly, the tourism body says it’s important that not only industry workers, but community activists, volunteers and residents alike all get the help and assistance needed in ensuring that their mental and emotional well-being remains intact. The TEF provided funding to the tune of EC $13,000.00.
TEF Programme Manager Donette Ismael stated: “Persons are not keen to reach out to places like the Crisis Centre because of the stigma associated with getting that psychological help. But with persons right there in the community that could intervene, that could provide a relief for some of the stresses that we face; we found that that need was critical. So when the Ministry reached out to us we were more than happy to have the young persons being trained in those areas that they would be able to now provide conflict resolution, effective communication, give that peer support that is needed.”
According to WHO statistics, on the heels of the COVID-19 pandemic, persons requiring mental health services rose 25% globally, hence the call for countries to strengthen their mental health capabilities. The three-day February 6-8 training targeted approximately 50 individuals.