As part of yesterday’s commemoration of World Mental Health Day, the Convent of Mercy (Alpha) in Kingston received a symbolic wellness bench, representing a safe place for students of the all-girls institution to unburden themselves from the stresses that afflict them.
This was accomplished through the collaboration between the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the World Health Organisation (WHO), Jamaica’s Ministry of Health and Wellness and Ministry of Education, as part of the launch of the #DoYourShare campaign.
The #DoYourShare campaign is a regionwide campaign which aims to create public awareness about mental wellness, support services and safe spaces. It also seeks to inspire positive health-seeking behaviour among members of the population about their mental wellness, and reduce the stigma and discrimination around mental ill health.
The donation of the bench comes after the summer launch of the mental health school intervention, which targeted 50 schools and engaged students and teachers in sensitisation sessions about mental health and wellness.
It is one of first designated spaces to be implemented in schools, where students can retreat from the pressures of a schoolday, journal their thoughts, or talk with someone about how they are feeling and ask for help.
During a rap session held with the students at Alpha under this year’s theme, ‘Make Mental Health and Well-being for all a Global Priority’, Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton challenged students to think of a place in which they felt safe and to locate trustworthy individuals to speak with about their issues.
“That safe space that we’re setting up outside, that I want you all to look at and use, the intention of it is to find a place on the compound … where you can sit and manage your troubles away,” he said.
The minister added that students could think about their issues in a positive way to find solutions on how to cope.
“So, all mental health is about is the promotion of mental wellness because we want you to be well so that you can be the best that you want to be,” he said.
Vicente Teran, deputy representative of United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), noted concerns raised over the lack of sufficient safe spaces to encourage the youth to have dialogue about the issues they face, such as stress, anxiety and depression.
“Across the world, the mental health and well-being of children and adolescents is a matter of high priority and that’s the reason why UNICEF is leading a call for increased investments to ensure that children and adolescents have the support they need to transition into adulthood in an healthy way,” he said.
Teran noted that the State of the World’s Children 2021 report done by UNICEF revealed alarming statistics that more than 30 per cent of adolescents worldwide (160 million) were living with a diagnosed mental disorder.
Ian Stein, PAHO/WHO representative to Jamaica, noted that mental health was a global priority and that the issues would be tackled through weeklong activities.
Simone Clarke-Cooper, executive producer and host of the television series Sim Soul Sessions, a curated safe space for invited guests to share intimate details of their life story, has been named the ambassador of the campaign at Alpha.
Clarke-Cooper expressed that her mission was to ensure that as many students as possible were educated on what mental health is about and the avenues that students find support in when facing mental issues.
“You don’t have to do it alone; it’s a lot of heavy lifting and you’ll be surprised what sharing can do,” she said.
Safe spaces for the nation’s youth to access help
• The Teen Hub located at the Half-Way Tree Transportation Centre in St Andrew.
• The U-Matter Chatline, which can be accessed by youth ages 16 to 24 years old, by sending the word SUPPORT to U-Report Jamaica at 876-838-4897 on WhatsApp and SMS (free texts for FLOW customers) and @ureportjamaica on Instagram and Facebook Messenger.
• The Safe Spot Child and Teen Helpline at 888-723-3776
• The Ministry’s Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Helpline: 888-NEW-LIFE (888-639-5433)
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