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Multi-sectoral, multi-stakeholder approach required to mitigate mental health challenges

BARBADOS, 22 November 2022 — Healthy Caribbean Youth Mental Health Call to Action Committee meets with Minister & senior health officials

There is no health without mental health. That is the fundamental principle underpinning the ‘Caribbean Youth Mental Health Call To Action’, launched by the Healthy Caribbean Coalition (HCC) in October, this year. This document was compiled following consultations with numerous stakeholders from the Caribbean mental health space, including youth organizations, service organizations, and mental health professionals; and, with technical guidance and feedback from UNICEF, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA).

The 4 Calls of the Caribbean Youth Mental Health Call to Action.

Photo Credit: Healthy Caribbean Coalition.

From inception, Let’s Unpack It (LUI) has been a key contributor to this CYMHCTA initiative, and our President, David Johnson, currently sits on the CYMHCTA Committee.

Since the launch, members of the CYMHCTA Committee have been meeting with stakeholders across the region. Successful meetings have already been conducted and commitments secured in Belize, Bahamas and Trinidad & Tobago.

Recently, the Barbadian contingent met with Dr. The Hon. Sonia Browne M.P., Minister of State in the Ministry of Health and Wellness, with responsibility for NCDs, to discuss the Caribbean Youth Mental Health Call to Action, the current state of affairs surrounding mental health in Barbados, current and existing mental health plans, policies and programs, and the way forward.

During the meeting, members of the Call to Action (CTA) Committee called for a course correction to prioritize mental health, and urgent intervention to address the myriad of mental health challenges plaguing Barbadian youth. They also contended that effective policies & strategies must be wholistic, evidence-based, and in line with best practices. Moreover, they must promote cross -sectoral & interagency collaboration, and garner input and support from the youth they aim to benefit.

Representing the CYMHCTA Committee were LUI VP of Operations Chelsea É. Jordan, HCC Executive Director - Maisha Hutton, and HCY members Stephanie Whiteman, MPH, Kerrie Barker, and Christopher Laurie, M.Sc. They were joined by senior officials from the Ministry of Health and Wellness, Permanent Secretary - Janet Phillips, Chief Medical Officer of Health - Dr. Kenneth George, Senior Medical Officer of Health - Dr. Arthur Phillips, and Administrative Officer - Carol Osbourne Gibbons.

From left: Maisha Hutton; Carol Osbourne Gibbons; Dr. Kenneth George; Chelsea Jordan; Stephanie Whiteman; Kerrie Barker; Dr. the Hon. Sonia Browne; Janet Phillips; Christopher Laurie; Dr. Arthur Phillips. Photo Credit: Healthy Caribbean Coalition.

In their response to the issues raised, Dr. Sonia Browne and senior health officials shared their similar concern about youth mental health. They acknowledged that more needed to be done to broaden awareness about available mental health services, as well as, to bolster the capacity of existing offerings. Moreover, they agreed that youth should be included in the discourse, especially now, as Barbados moves to update its Mental Health Policy. The health officials also pointed out that more must be done to build out a community-based mental health and psychosocial support structure, that can see community members being trained and equipped to provide psychological first aid.

At the end of the fruitful discussion, the Minister and senior health officials commended the efforts of the Mental Health CTA Committee, and expressed their collective enthusiasm to collaborate to achieve key targets. Follow up discussions with other ministries and other stakeholders are already on the cards.

Through partnerships and engagements like this, Let's Unpack It (LUI) is realizing its mission, and assiduously pursuing the tenets of the LUI 7-Point Action Plan.

Help support our efforts, by reading and signing on to the Call to Action today.

Watch this space!

Written by David Johnson

Originally Posted December 8, 2022

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Remember that mental health is a priority. It's up to each of us to make it a lived reality, for all.

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