Jhanille Brooks - Service above selfSunday, December 04, 2016
BY KIMBERLEY HIBBERT
SHE’S fun-loving, caring, driven, and very keen to promote mental health awareness and public education, as well as working with at-risk boys.
Jhanille Brooks, 31, told All Woman that from a tender age she has been involved in volunteer initiatives, which fostered her love to see people be the best versions of themselves.
"At Campion we were mandated to be involved in two clubs, one of which had to be a service club, and I was part of the Interact Club. From there my passion for volunteerism grew and I started counselling and volunteering at summer camps. I was always involved in giving back, and I found that a lot of people would always come just to talk, so I had that inclination from high school to help. I also volunteered at Friends Hotline before — helping young people trying to find out who they are, what they’re doing with their life," she said.
When Brooks got to the University of the West Indies she enrolled in management studies, and then she realised she really wanted to go into counselling. However, she was not allowed to switch her major or do a minor, so she opted to do all her free electives in psychology.
But on December 1, 2005, an experience with a friend truly convinced her that this was the path she wanted to pursue.
"That day I lost a friend to suicide. He was diagnosed with schizophrenia a couple of weeks before. We were 20 years old. Out of the care group, I was the only one in the group who had any working knowledge of what it was and what it meant. It was a lot of confusion. He was a close friend of mine, and while he was sick with his hallucinations and so forth he would reach out to me. When he was not hallucinating or delusional, at times he would be talking and expressing what he was experiencing. I saw the illness manifest and a couple of weeks later he committed suicide. It was after that happened that I had an aha turning point, an epiphany, a metaphorical moment in life. I said, "Oh, this is what I should be doing." So here I am 11 years after his death doing what I can to raise awareness of mental health issues and reduce stigma, because it can in fact happen to anyone — not only the ‘madman’ on the street."
Brooks, who is also a Fulbright Scholar, holds a master’s degree in rehabilitation and mental health counselling from the University of South Florida, and has worked in the areas of project management, clinical therapy, counselling, behaviour change, mental health, substance abuse prevention and rehabilitation, homelessness, community development, HIV/AIDS, working with at-risk groups including youths, as well as training, facilitation, resource mobilisation, event planning and fundraising
She has also worked with Rise Life Management Services, the National Council on Drug Abuse, Back2Life Rio Cobre — a mentorship project for incarcerated youth at the Rio Cobre Juvenile Correctional Facility — and as an English teaching assistant for Heart for Change Colombia.
Having been in the field for seven years, Brooks currently works as a mental health counsellor and rehabilitation specialist at Caribbean Tots to Teens. She also serves as chairperson at the Jamaica Mental Health Advocacy Network, which she founded in 2012 to increase national awareness of mental illness while reducing the stigma associated with mental health as well as increasing the capacity of stakeholders to deal with individuals facing mental health challenges.
Other functions include lobbying for the proper treatment and increased services offered to people suffering from mental illness, promoting acceptance of mental health problems by encouraging, educating and inspiring people to talk openly about mental health problems, and promoting overall wellness and mental stability.
"Having worked with young people in youth development, I know adolescence is a very tricky time for them. That’s hard enough, and adolescents may see their parents going through a divorce, they may have their first real relationship and it doesn’t work out. These issues, if not handled properly, will lead to maladaptive behaviour. It’s about coping with everyday challenges, especially now when there’s so much coming at young people," she stated.
With regards to her passion for working with at-risk boys, Brooks said it is not a problem that can’t be fixed.
"We have a lot of problems in Jamaica, but one I want to solve is our marginalised young men. I want to help them fulfil their passion. I don’t see women out their ‘bussing’ the guns, I see the men doing it. So even if it is for that reason alone, I’m passionate about it," she said.
A lover of the gym, karaoke, music, sports, particularly football and basketball, Brooks also holds fast to her spirituality and uses Romans 8:28 as a guide — And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to His purpose.
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