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Giving young people a voice

Local News 16 Dec, 2021 Follow News

Youth Ambassadors Lilly Haug and Jhadari Lumley

Christmas is quickly approaching and the build up to the festive season can be quite a stressful one as we prepare for a busy period of entertaining. With the new Omicron variant of Covid heightening people’s worries about whether they can enjoy a normal Christmas with loved ones adding to stress levels, the Caymanian Times is introducing a new series of articles that will give some hope and guidance for people – particularly young people – when it comes to mental health.

 

Young people at risk

In the UK, the statistics as they relate to the mental well-being of young people, are startling.

According to YoungMinds, the UK’s leading charity fighting for children and young people’s mental health:

• One in six children aged five to 16 have a probable mental health problem, a huge increase from one in nine in 2017;

• The number of A&E attendances by young people aged 18 or under with a recorded; diagnosis of a psychiatric condition more than tripled between 2010 and 2018-19

• 80% of young people with mental health needs agreed that the coronavirus pandemic had made their mental health worse;

• In 2018-19, 24% of 17-year-olds reported having self-harmed in the previous year, and 16% reported high levels of psychological distress;

• Suicide was the leading cause of death for males and females aged between five to 34 in 2019;

• Nearly half of 17-19-year-olds with a diagnosable mental health disorder has self-harmed or attempted suicide at some point, rising to 52.7% for young women.

These are very worrying statistics and ones that ought to raise alarm bells here in Cayman, too. So, the Caymanian Times is teaming up with young people at Cayman’s Youth Ambassador Programme (YAP), a group created by the Alex Panton Foundation comprising of young people from across the Cayman Islands. YAP was developed to provide support to the youth of Cayman who experience mental health challenges, in particular anxiety and depression, in a way that builds resilience and inspires hope through the young people developing their own path forward within the programme.

Together, over the coming months, we are going to explore a series of topics as they relate to young people, so they know they have a voice, they are actually being heard, and most importantly of all, they know they are not alone in their mental health struggles.

 

Why focus on mental health?

YAP members explained why the issue of mental health resonated so deeply with them.

UCCI student Jhadari Lumley, 16, said:

“Mental health has always been important because I have even struggled with it myself, so I have always wanted to help people and get the word out there, breaking the stigma. It’s also important because mental health is one of the most important aspects of your life. The state of your mental health pretty much guides you as a person. We take physical health very seriously, but it’s our mental health that really guides us, how we act in society, how we act to others and how we act towards ourself, and it can affect any aspect of your life.”

Jhadari added that mental health issues affect people in different ways, so it was important to equip people with the tools to recognise symptoms of mental health issues so they could adequately deal with them, and so they don’t feel isolated.

Lilly Haug 16, who attends CIS said mental health was important to her because she knew someone who sadly committed suicide.

“I feel like it is my place to ensure that I do my part so I don’t see that happen again. One of the major reasons that that person ended down that path was because they did not ask for help. There were many people and places that could help her, but they did not know how to ask for help, and I feel like that is one of the major issues,” Lily said. “There are plenty of places to help – there is the Youth Ambassadors, there are counsellors, there’s therapists, some people have friends, but they don’t feel they can ask them for help. We need to tell people how to communicate their need for help.”

Soleil Parkinson, 17, who attends CIS, said she got involved with YAP because she felt lots of young people suffered with depression and anxiety, especially with the large workloads young people faced these days and the pressure put upon them.

“It was important to me to help other people speak out about what they are dealing with because it is something so common, yet it’s taboo to speak about, even though we all deal with our issues,” Soleil said. “I would like to see Cayman build communities where people feel like they can speak and feel like they have others supporting them without judgement, because judgement is something we face so often. Just having a place where people can speak without judgement can help people come to terms with what they are dealing with.”

If you would like to know more about Youth Ambassadors Programme, visit https://alexpantonfoundation.ky/yap

Please stay tuned for topics on mental health issues, how they impact young people in Cayman and how young people can seek help. The most important thing to remember if you feel you need help is: you are not alone.


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