(WB) Jamaican Health and Wellness Minister Christopher Tufton last week said people who access his country’s mental health care system should not experience discrimination based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.
“Mental health services have been experiencing a number of reviews. For the LGBT community, clearly, I do not know what the specific concerns are, but I would say, as a blanket statement, that we promote the concept of non-discrimination in terms of access, and any service that we offer to the population would include all segments of the population,” Tufton said on Nov. 3 during a forum the Jamaica Gleaner, a Jamaican newspaper, organized.
“I think the whole issue of the LGBT community and non-discrimination has evolved, and frankly speaking, I think it is getting better,” continued Tufton. “In fact, there is more accessibility and more willingness to provide service without any prompting or punitive oversight measures.”
The Jamaica Gleaner said Tufton made the comments in response to a question that Glenroy Murray, the interim executive director of Equality for All Foundation Jamaica, a Jamaican LGBT rights group, asked.
Equality for All Foundation Jamaica has created two handbooks that specifically outline ways to ensure LGBT Jamaicans don’t suffer discrimination when they access mental health services. The Washington Blade has obtained a statement from Tufton in which he applauds the organization’s work on the issue.
“It is well recognized that mental illness is highly stigmatized, even at the primary care level, which, for many people, is the first point of contact with the health system,” said Tufton. “Due to this stigma, individuals will either avoid or delay seeking care for fear of being treated differently from others, fears over losing their jobs or out of concern for their relationships within family and friends.”
“This, in turn, can result in poor health outcomes and the loss of productive years,” he added. “Persons from the LGBT community will have an additional layer of stigma due to sexual orientation or gender identity and are therefore at higher risk of poor outcomes than other persons living with mental illness.”
Tufton in the statement also notes “this stigma is driven, at least in part, by a lack of knowledge among mental health practitioners.”
Jamaica is among the dozens of countries around the world in which consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized. Violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity also remain commonplace on the island.
Kelly West, a transgender Jamaican woman, was one of the 47 people who were living at Jardín de las Mariposas, a shelter for LGBT asylum seekers in the Mexican border city of Tijuana, on July 12 when the Blade visited. West said she asked for asylum in the U.S. because of the anti-trans discrimination and persecution she suffered in Jamaica.