Every year World Mental Health Day reminds us all that it is as important to focus on healthy minds as much as on healthy bodies.
For governments and healthcare professionals it also seeks to highlight how we can actively promote this balanced approach to health.
The 21st century context in which we live is in some ways a time of unrivalled and unprecedentedly rapid change. It seems that every day there are developments in science and technology that impact how we see ourselves and each other, and therefore how we interact, how we communicate and how we learn, even how we carry out day-to-day tasks.
This year’s theme “Young people and mental health in a changing world” evokes this social kaleidoscope and in particular the impact that it can have on our youth.
Adolescence and young adulthood are a time of life when we experience many changes very close together. Examples include changing schools, leaving home, starting university or a new job, sometimes even starting a family.
At the same time young people’s bodies and minds are also undergoing considerable shifts. These changes impact their understanding of the world and their place in it, often in ways that set the pattern for the rest of their life.
In many instances such change can be exhilarating but in others it can cause stress and apprehension. In some cases, if not recognised and managed, these feelings lead to mental illness.
We know that half of all mental illness begins by the age of 14. Meanwhile suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15-29-year-olds. Globally depression, illicit drug use, risky behavior and eating disorders are common among this age group.
Here in the Cayman Islands our small population makes it of paramount importance that our young people are physically and mentally prepared to take responsibility for the future of this country. Given the pressures they face it is important we remind them that they have our unconditional love and encourage them to make use of whatever resources they may need to reach their full potential.
Agencies like the Department of Counselling Services and the Family Resource Centre which falls under its remit; the National Drug Council; as well as the Mental Health Commission are different pieces of this framework.
The Health Services Authority also has a great team that provides mental health services. In addition the Alex Panton foundation has recently taken on the task of eradicating the stigma associated with mental illness. The work of the group Silent Loud Voices further offers tremendous support to families of persons with mental health challenges. All of this work is invaluable.
From a Government standpoint my Ministry is steadily moving closer towards a long term residential mental health facility that will allow persons to benefit from such treatment on island surrounded by their family and friends.
This World Mental Health Day let us take time as a society and as individuals to ensure our young people and their families understands what mental health is and how they can look after themselves and each other. This will help them to build the kind of mental resilience that best copes with the travails of life but also help us to be more resilient as a country.