The Alex Panton Foundation (APF) recently hosted over 300 delegates at its 3rd Annual Youth Mental Health Symposium under the theme “Empowering Youth, Inspiring Hope.”
Taking place on 22 February, this year’s event highlighted the importance of equipping young people with the tools necessary to express mental health concerns, as well as creating a safe environment for young people to express themselves.
A highlight of the afternoon was the opportunity to hear directly from some inspirational young people during a panel discussion of students who have joined the Alex Panton Youth Ambassadors Programme. The young panelists spoke about how the programme, which was launched last year, has become an important resource that has helped shape their understanding of mental health and what needs to be done to address youth mental health issues in our community moving forward.
The panelists - Jhadari Lumley, Cristin Jackson, Yoleiddy Cid-Paredes and Paxton McCoy - spoke candidly and with passion, giving a deep insight to the current climate of what the country’s youth are facing today. The panel was moderated by Bill LaMonte and Dr. Colleen Brown.
The Alex Panton Foundation also launched two emotional literacy programmes in 2019 called “Zippy” and “Apple, designed for children 5 to 9 years old. These were highlighted by master trainers Dr. Catherine Day and Dr. Xenia Sitiriou in their presentation titled “The Power of Prevention.”
They explained that it is a story based programme with six modules that help students learn to cope with anxiety including: Feelings, Communication, Making and Breaking Relationships, Conflict Resolution, Dealing and Coping with Loss and We Cope. The programme is available across Grand Cayman and Cayman Brac and boasts 8 participating partners from private and government schools, 6 Master Trainers and 21 trained teachers in Cayman. 472 young people have benefited from the program.
Delegates also heard from international keynote Speaker Kevin Ashworth, Co-founder and Clinical Director of NW Anxiety Institute, a specialty anxiety clinic in Portland, Oregon. His presentation “How to “think” with your feet. Empowerment through facing your fears,” focused on identifying how to differentiate between stress and anxiety.
Mr. Ashworth discussed what anxiety can look like in children, how to differentiate between stress and anxiety and how exposure therapy can help.
Wrapping up the day was returning and always inspirational speaker Dr. Marc Lockhart whose presentation debunked myths revolving around youth mental health.
Dr. Lockhart highlighted some startling international and local statistics in regards to youth mental health issues and that the understanding of mental health particular in regards to children is still often misguided.
Underlining that a parent’s or adult’s experience as an adolescent will have been very different from the world that children live in today, Dr. Lockhart urged adults and parents to listen and not attach their own experience to those of the children that are relying on them.
The Governor, the Hon. Martin Roper and the Hon. Dwayne Seymour, Minister of Health, Environment, Culture and Housing both provided supportive and inspirational remarks to open the Symposium. Mr. Seymour also pledged his Ministry’s support for the planned Youth Mental Health Hub at the George Town hospital that has been championed by the Foundation.
“We are humbly overwhelmed by the support of our sponsors, exhibitors and volunteers. We just wouldn’t be able to do what we do without them” said Jane Panton, APF Chairperson. “We are also delighted by the number of delegates that attended our Symposium this year and hope that they all took away practical information that can assist us in our mission to support children and young adults in our community struggling with their mental wellness,” she said.
The symposium was made possible thanks to its speakers and volunteers as well as sponsors: Tower, Burger King, Maples Group, Health City Cayman Islands, DART, Hurley’s Media, Logic, Cinico, Ogier, Walkers, Highwater, The Wellness Centre, Caymanian Times, RBC Wealth Management Dominion Securities, Ironshore Pharmaceuticals Cayman Islands, Compass Media and C3 Pure Fibre.
Those looking for more information on the Alex Panton Foundation can follow them on Facebook and Instagram as well as www.alexpantonfoundation.ky. Presentations from the symposium will be uploaded onto the website shortly.