Friday, 15 September 2017

Pet-Friendly Hurricane Shelters

Jamaica’s geographical location makes the island not only prone to hurricanes but also earthquakes. We must come to grips with this reality, a truth in which the State will be called upon to provide more shelters as the intensity of hurricanes increases due to global warming and climate change. Our ever expanding collection of unplanned settlements, mainly due to the inability to afford home, clearly put the citizenry at particular risks. The time has come for the society to invest in constructing shelters in each parish instead of using schools which often leaves these educational institutions in a state of despair after the evacuees leave for home. Additionally, the State also needs to ensure that some of the public shelters are pet- friendly. In many instances people are forced to leave their pets at home not knowing how long they will be holed up in a shelter or who will care for their pets during their absence.
Benefits of Having a Pet
Research indicates that there are numerous benefits of having a pet around. These include a boost in one’s mood. It only takes a few minutes with your favourite pet for you to feel calmer and less stressed. Time spent with your pet will see a lowering of cortisol, and an increase in serotonin, a good feeling chemical in your body. Having a pet also contributes to lowering of one’s blood pressure. People with pets tend to have better cholesterol levels and triglycerides than owners of pets.
Last, but not least, we need to have a mandatory evacuation policy for those individuals who live in flood prone areas as well as those who are homeless. Oftentimes, the homeless are not given any consideration during time of natural disasters, this is rather inhumane and troubling, and we need to make right this wrong.

Wayne Campbell

Sunday, 10 September 2017

World Suicide Prevention Day

“Hope is a necessity for normal life and the major weapon against the suicide impulse”- Karl A. Menninger
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately 800,000 people die annually due to suicide.  The WHO reports that in 2015 suicide was the second leading cause of death among the 15-29 year old population. Unfortunately, as depression in the society increases it is very likely there will be more attempts at suicide. Research also points to an association between suicide and mental disorders. The rate of suicide is also high among vulnerable groups which experience discrimination, such as, refugees and migrants, indigenous peoples, lesbians, gays, bisexual, transgender and those who are incarcerated. Suicide in men has been described as a "silent epidemic", epidemic because of its high incidence and substantial contribution to men's mortality. Males are particularly at risk at taking their lives due to how they are socialized to be macho. This macho-induced model of socialization often runs counter to the perception of maleness and masculinity and prevents men from seeking the necessary help and or support in working out personal and relational issues which oftentimes are at the root of suicide. According to statistics Jamaica recorded 53 cases of suicide in 2012 and 52 cases in 2013.  Jamaica’s 2.6 suicidal rate of per 100,000 of the population is considered relatively low; however, this does not mean that we should not continue to highlight this social problem by raising awareness regarding the issue of suicide which also impacts the families of those who take their lives.  Other countries in the Western Hemisphere have varying suicidal rates; Guyana’s suicide rate for males is 46.0 and 15.5 among the female population.  Cuba’s suicidal rate is 17.0 per 100, 000 of the population for males and 4.2 for females. According to the WHO, 78% of global suicides occur in low and middle-income countries. Suicide knows no borders, educational levels, nationality and religion.  
Suicide is a complex issue and as a result suicide prevention requires not only the health sector to address this problem, but suicide prevention necessitate a collaborative approach across multiple sectors to include, education, the church, labour, agriculture and the media.  In response to the global challenge suicide poses it is important that we pause on the 15th anniversary of World Suicide Prevention Day on Sunday, September 10 to raise consciousness of the complexities surrounding suicide and provide support through community based actions to those who feel burnt or stressed out.

Signs of Depression
A colleague of mine who suffers from mild depression shared some thoughts with me while I did this article. He told me of some of the signs he experiences. “Not excited about things you normally love, being withdrawn, neglecting family and friends, moody, as well as cant get out of bed”. My colleague who I will call Mr. O, added, “people need to know and realize suicide is associated with mental illness but we are not mad people”. He went to say “families need to know signs of depression which can lead to suicide. They need to know how to deal with the family members and friends. They need not to ignore the signs but try to help”. Unfortunately, the stigma surrounding suicide means many people thinking of taking their own life or who have attempted suicide are not seeking help.
In closing Mr. O lamented the lack of support in the society for those who suffer from depression. “Organizations that deal with mental illness need to mek more noise, we need to hear from them”.
The Way Forward
In recognition of World Suicide Prevention Day, the ninth suicide seminar was held at the Jamaica Conference Center on Friday, September 8. The seminar is a collaborative effort by Choose Life International, the Mental Health Department of the Ministry of Health and the Social Welfare Training Center at the University of the West Indies. The event is free to the public. Suicide is a serious public health problem and is also preventable.  It is important to note that suicide is among the proposed indicators of the health-related Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in September 2015. We oftentimes forget to realize that our physical health is dependent upon our mental health. The Ministry of Health should consider establishing a mental health crisis hotline to offer counselling services. The government also needs to embark on a public education campaign to underscore the importance of mental health, as well as, to inform the public of the agencies and resources available to treat mental health. As a society we need to foster a culture of collective responsibility whereby individuals feel a sense of well-being and comfort in seeking help for their mental state. We need to be more attentive to family members and friends, as well as, we need to pay more attention to our own mental health. The theme for World Suicide Prevention Day is “Life is precious, celebrate life”. We all have a role to play in preventing suicide, one life lost to suicide is one too many. “When you feel like giving up, just remember the reason you held on for so long”-Unknown
Wayne Campbell is an educator and social commentator with an interest in development policies as they affect culture and or gender issues.

Friday, 8 September 2017

International Literacy Day

“Reading is a discount ticket to everywhere”-Mary Schmich
September 8th was proclaimed International Literacy Day by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) at the 14th session of UNESCO General Conference in 1966.  The aim of such an important day is to highlight the challenges people face across the globe regarding literacy issues, as well as to bring awareness of literacy not only to individuals but to societies and communities. Alarmingly, more than 775 million adults lack minimum literacy skills. The lack of literacy skills among the global population also has a sex disaggregate component since women account for two- thirds of those who are illiterate.  According to the United Nations the global youth literacy number stands at 103 million, with more than 60 per cent of that figure being women.  
The United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 4 addresses the issue of inclusive and quality education for all the promotion of lifelong learning. However, in spite of this fact many societies are struggling to eradicate illiteracy. Literacy is the ability to use printed and written information to function in society. Literacy provides us with the ability to achieve our personal goals, as well as, develop our knowledge and skills set. Literacy is critical to the economic and social development of a society more so in a globalized world. The theme for International Literacy Day 2017 is “Literacy in a Digital World”.
According to Dr. Grace- Camille Munroe in a newspaper interview stated that Jamaica’s adult literacy rate is at 87 per cent. Our state agencies and indeed the education system have done tremendous work in getting us to this place; however, Jamaica still lags behind some of her Caribbean neighours, such as, Cuba and Barbados regarding 100 per cent literacy. There is obviously much more work to be done to ensure 100 per cent literacy among the adult population.
Unfortunately, many of schools, both government and private do not have a library, and those schools which are so fortunate to a library; many are without the services of a librarian due to budgetary constraints. 
Digital Literacy
The 21st leaner is a feature of the digital community and many of our students have access to smart phones, as well computer devices such as Tablets. In fact the Government of Jamaica has a Tablet in Schools (TIS) Project. The project is a partnership between the Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining and the Ministry of Education.  The implementation of the project is being done by the E-Learning Jamaica Company Limited and the Universal Service Fund (USF) in which Tablets will be distributed to a number of educational intuitions to include teachers colleges. 
Barriers to Literacy
The main barrier to Jamaica achieving a 100 per cent literacy level is our inability to develop and promote a reading culture. The Jamaican society is very much an oral society which is clearly a feature of our African heritage. While we should not discount our predisposition for oral history we also need to encourage our citizenry to document and read. Additionally, there is culture which dictates to boys that reading is anti-masculine and sadly, this sub-culture, which is reinforced by popular culture, has turned off many of our boys from education in general and reading in particular.  This lack of motivation for reading must be addressed with a sense of urgency. Disturbingly, boys who display school smarts are often ridiculed as effeminate by peers and even adults in areas where academic excellence by males is typically devalued. It is almost as if manhood and masculinity have been hijacked by a thug culture far removed from education.
Promote Literacy
It seems to me that every opportunity to focus on the written word should be greatly promoted across the length and breadth of our island. The reading process begins long before the child enters the formal education system. In fact emergent literacy begins in the womb at the point of conception. I dare say that a literate society safeguards the well-being of all its citizens. It is clear that, without the ability to read, comprehend and interpret, the student of today, who will form the workforce of tomorrow, will not be able to compete for the better-paying jobs in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). The society needs to find means and ways to redouble its efforts and put in the necessary resources to ensure that no child leaves school unable to read.

In the words of President Bill Clinton “Literacy is not a luxury; it is a right and a responsibility. If our world is to meet the challenges of the twenty-first century we must harness the energy and creativity of all our citizens.”
Wayne Campbell is an educator and social commentator with an interest in development policies as they affect culture and or gender issues.