'No health without mental health'
Healthy Caribbean Youth group urges integration of mental health services into existing health policies
From top left clockwise: Healthy Caribbean Youth Member Stephanie Whiteman; technical officer of Healthy Caribbean, Danielle Walwyn; Healthy Caribbean youth member, Kerrie Barker, Healthy Caribbean youth member, and Simone Bishop-Matthews, Healthy Caribbean youth member.

RESPONDING to mental health concerns raised by youngsters, the Healthy Caribbean Youth group launched a call to action on Tuesday to prioritise mental wellness which had been daunted by the effects of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The group, which is a part of the Healthy Caribbean Coalition (HCC), said the Mental Health Call to Action is a document that outlines key requests from youth across the Caribbean region to better protect child and youth mental health and well-being.

"The call to action stemmed from the concerns and feedback shared at two mental health focus webinars shared at HCC during the height of the [novel cornavirus] pandemic. We at HCC, Healthy Caribbean Youth knew we had to do something to amplify concern around mental health, but also highlight solutions to ensure that we are prioritising, normalising and destigmatising mental health," said advocacy officer and coordinator of Healthy Caribbean Youth, Danielle Walwyn at the virtual event held under the theme, 'There's no health without mental health'.

Healthy Caribbean Youth member, Stephanie Whiteman said the key areas of focus for the call to action are legislation in terms of the integration of mental health into existing health policies and emergency plans; research to inform mental health programming; policies to support the mental health and well-being of children and youth; and regulation/policies to protect children and youth from health-harming products, harassment, stigma, and discrimination.

From top left clockwise: Pierre Cooke Jr, counselling pyschologist; Alaina Gomes; Executive director at Healthy Caribbean Coalition, Maisha Hutton; technical officer at Healthy Caribbean Coalition

"With our call to action we are asking policymakers and decision-makers to prioritise the integration of mental health services into the existing health policies and emergency plans, and providing the opportunity where youth can be engaged in this integration," explained Whiteman.

At the same time, counselling psychologist and Healthy Caribbean Youth member Alaina Gomes explained that the call to action will be useful in addressing the mental health challenges faced by youngsters.

She also noted that by increasing the evidence-based interventions through research, more schools will be able to implement strategies that work to assist children and young people with having good mental health.

"In my experience as a counselling psychologist in the schools, various businesses, organisations, and various sectors of the government, I have seen first-hand how effective mental health-related strategies can be for children. It has been found that children who have practitioners available to them, coupled with the use of various interventions used within the schools and various health systems.... have been able to better cope with their anger, anxiety, depression, feelings of sadness and even stress," she said.

"If mental health practitioners and advocates get this support from the Government and other organisations, to see the necessity for the implementation of these policies, the introduction of research — essentially all of what the call is suggesting — then we can and will find the resources to do it," she declared.

Several activities will be hosted this month to bring awareness to the initiative, including the launch of the mental health call to action web page on October 10 which will be recognised as World Mental Health Day.

BY BRITTNY HUTCHINSON Observer staff reporter hutchinsonb@jamaicaobserver.com

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