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Mind Over Matter: Highlighting the Value of Digital Mental Health Advocacy

By Shaniqua Pearce  •  March 24, 2024


Have you ever had a burning question but felt hesitant to voice it? An urge to know more, but you hold back because you don't know how to phrase the question, you don't know who to talk or turn to or you're scared to share what's coming to mind? You're not alone. Throughout our journeys as mental health advocates, each of our team members here at Let's Unpack It has experienced this feeling. As we continue to engage in digital advocacy, we're constantly working to recognize and manage the feeling of uncertainty that often comes with this topic that is seldom spoken about in-depth in public settings - mental health.

Man scratching his head with a puzzled expression.



Mind Over Matter: A Mental Health Youth Forum


Through our work in the health advocacy space, we here at LUI have recognized the need for concerted efforts focused on educating Caribbean youth about their mental health. By prioritizing and facilitating frank, open dialogue, we can bridge gaps in understanding, unite people around common experiences, foster communities of solidarity and support, and nurture a spirit of empathy. As a youth-led NGO, we believe that working alongside (whether collaborations or partnerships) other youth-centered organizations has tremendous potential to advance the cause of youth mental health. These alliances act as an incubation site through which we can pursue wider reach, greater impact and stronger commitments to decisive action. On February 24, 2024, we did just that, partnering with the Rotaract Club of Barbados for an exciting, youth-engaging event titled Mind Over Matter: A Mental Health Youth Forum.



Let's Unpack It advocates at the Mind Over Matter event. From Left: Jovanna Ifill, Let's Unpack It & UNICEF Eastern Caribbean Area Mental Health Focal Point for Barbados; Kehly Olton, Volunteer Coordinator; and Javier Knight, Advocacy Officer.


The cocktail-style networking event allowed young professionals in Barbados to connect while learning about mental health. The highlight of the event was the #AskMeAnything session, in which attendees got a chance to pose their burning questions to mental health professionals and advocates in an intimate 1-to-1 format. Imagine getting to make your voice heard in a safe space with access to professionals and advocates in the mental health field. A little less nerve-wracking, huh?


Digital Advocacy and Mental Health at Work


The LUI team broached conversations with the participants on the themes of digital advocacy, as well as prioritizing mental health in the workplace. "What is digital advocacy?", you're probably wondering. Simply put, digital advocacy is an approach to igniting positive change which is primarily based in the online domain. It involves the use of social media campaigns, online discussions, digital petitions and e-letters, which are used to amplify key messages and make progress towards key advocacy goals. Digital advocacy lets us use all the social networking and web-based platforms we love to unite others around a cause and make a call for the change you want to see within your communities. And the best part? High-tech or more abstract and creative, your approach to digital advocacy is all up to you.


At Let's Unpack It, digital advocacy is a powerful tool we use to empower young people so they realize their voices matter, and that they can and must have their voices heard both regionally and across the globe. Of course, however, as the old adage declares, with great power comes great responsibility. Indeed, some of the greatest threats to advancement in the mental health space are prevailing stigma, the cycling of misinformation, and misconceptions about mental illness. It's particularly worrisome in this digital era, where no one seems to verify before sharing, and that's why we take our responsibility to publish and circulate accurate information very seriously. We believe that access to accurate information is a core pillar of mental health literacy, and it is this literacy that empowers people, young and old, to tale ownership of and responsibility for the protection of not only their own mental health, but that of others as well.


"There is still the misconception that people living with a mental disorder can't work or can't keep a job." Kehly Olton, Volunteer Coordinator at Let's Unpack It.

This tenet of responsibility is central to our work and advocacy here at LUI, and that's why we have chosen to adopt the position of and call for shared responsibility for mental health in the workplace - that is to say, that responsibility falls both on the organization/employer and the individual employee. Organizations are obligated by agreements of the International Labour Organization to protect the rights of their workers. Equally, workers need to be aware of their rights, hold employers accountable, and contribute to a healthy working environment. In an ideal workplace, every person in the organizational structure partners with their colleagues to foster a culture of acceptance, prioritize mental health, and establish a network of support.



Owning your advocacy journey


So, what can we take away from this little glimpse into advocacy in action? What can you do if you're interested in making a positive change in your community? Two words: start small. When we think of change, we picture it as the outcome of massive, large-scale interventions which impact thousands of people. In truth, change often begins with one small action. Maybe it's researching a reputable organization you can volunteer with, writing a letter, or even recording a video about a cause you're passionate about. Of course, taking any action and first steps can be challenging, but keep going! And most importantly, find your people, those who are just as passionate about addressing your cause as you are!



Women accepting donation from partnered organization.

Above, Vice President of Operations at Let's Unpack It, Chelsea Jordan, (left) accepting the donation presented by Corey Sobers-Smith, Treasurer of the Rotaract Club of Barbados on March 5, 2024.



Let's Unpack It sincerely thanks the Rotaract Club of Barbados and the Mind Over Matter: A Mental Health Youth Forum attendees for their generous donations which will contribute to our mental health advocacy efforts across the Caribbean.



 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Shaniqua Pearce is the Director of Communications & Membership Relations at Let’s Unpack It. She obtained a BSc. Psychology (Special) with First Class Honors in 2022. She is pursuing a Master of Arts in Industrial & Organizational Psychology and has experience in marketing, human resources, and administration. Through storytelling and collaboration, Shaniqua seeks to empower young people to advocate for the psychosocial support they deserve.

 

In a moment of despair, we could all use a little help and support. If you're going through a rough patch, and/or dealing with thoughts of suicide or self-harm, please reach out to one of these Caribbean Mental Health Hotlines. You can also find some other resources compiled by Let's Unpack It here. Help is just one click or one phone call away.



List of mental health resources with a QR code.


We all have a mental health story. And, when we are open enough to share it, we can build hope, dismantle stigma, and help others to know that they're not alone. So, if you're comfortable, take a moment to share your lived experience here. #CareToShare

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