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Kingston is the capital of Jamaica and has a population of about 670,000 (including the Kingston Metropolitan Area, KMA). It falls within the top 10 cities with the highest homicide rates in the world. Over the past decades, Jamaica has been plagued with high rates of violence giving rise to post-traumatic stress disorders, personality disorders, depression and anxiety among children and adults. Family unions tend to be weak and frequently unstable, with caregivers often not equipped with the adequate parenting skills needed to support positive psychosocial development. Community mental health services are both under-resourced and unable to cope with the many needs including early diagnosis and treatment. Stigma and discrimination towards persons with mental illness remain prevalent and social support for families with mentally ill persons is inadequate, resulting in the abandonment and homelessness.

Jamaicans believe that stabilising families, improving parenting and education and creating employment opportunities for young people will be critical for addressing violence issues within their society. The government seeks to focus its interventions on providing greater parental support in reducing corporal punishment against children, identifying children in need of intervention at an early stage and in facilitating community involvement to support Early Childhood Development.

Jamaica is a Pathfinder country in the Global Partnership to Reduce Violence Against Children and the government is thus committed to the overarching goals of preventing violence, protecting childhood and making Jamaican society safe for children. The research team will be led by Prof Susan Walker. She is Professor and Director of the Caribbean Institute for Health Research at The University of the West Indies (UWI), Jamaica. She heads the Child Development Research Group at UWI, whose rigorous evaluations of low-cost approaches to promote children’s development have been critical in driving global attention to the importance of early stimulation for children under three years. Other team members with expertise in early childhood development and education, special education and child and adolescent mental health include Dr Helen Baker-HenninghamDr Susan Chang-Lope and Dr Joanna Smith.


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