On September 10th, World Suicide Prevention Day, the Healthy Caribbean Youth (the youth arm of the Healthy Caribbean Coalition) and Let’s Unpack It hosted a virtual panel discussion titled Building Hope Through Action: A Discussion on Suicide Prevention.
The objectives of the discussion were to:
- To generate awareness about the warning signs and risk factors of suicide
- To establish the links between the increasing number of deaths by suicide and poor mental health amongst youth
- To recommend key strategies and steps the public and stakeholders can implement to prevent suicide
In her opening remarks, Danielle Walwyn, HCC Advocacy Officer and Coordinator of Healthy Caribbean Youth reiterated the importance of the discussion and highlighted HCCs ongoing efforts to explore and amplify the challenges and solutions associated with mental health especially among children and youth in the region. She noted:
During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the HCC and HCY facilitated conversations (The Future Talks – Cultivating Healthy School Environments and Re-Opening Schools: Shared Perspectives on Navigating Mental Health During COVID-19) focused on the mental health of students and it was clear from these discussions that youth, especially youth who are already facing vulnerabilities such as – young persons living with obesity, NCDs (PLWNCDs), persons living with disabilities (PLWD), members of the LGBTQ+ communities , Indigenous communities and persons of low socioeconomic status – were struggling more than ever before with their mental health and they lacked safe and accessible spaces, especially within their school and community environment, to feel heard, understood and provided with guidance without judgement. This prompted HCY to consult with youth from across the region (including Let’s Unpack It) to develop a call to action – a document that outlines key asks from youth to transform mental health systems across the region and protect the mental health and wellbeing of children and youth. Some of these asks include WHO approaches for suicide prevention. We look forward to releasing this document on World Mental Health Day to continue this important dialogue on mental health. We hope that policymakers and other key stakeholders will realise that strategic investments can protect our mental health and ultimately prevent the tragedy of suicide.
She welcomed the five panelists who she noted would help to unpack the complex roots of mental health and death by suicide, and better understand the role that each of us, not just policymakers, have in creating environments that support optimum mental health.
The five panelists were:
- Mr. Johnash Tocel is the Youth Representative Board Member of the Barbados Family Planning Association, a member of the UREPORT Barbados Steering Committee, and an Executive Team Member of the Youth Advocacy Movement (YAM) Barbados
- Dr. Chenelle Joseph, Consultant Doctor in Psychiatry and Internal Medicine, currently practicing in Antigua
- Ms. Sarah Stennett, Registered Nurse, and the Manager of Centre for Counselling Addiction Support Alternatives Mental Health Crisis Hotline.
- Mr. Christopher Laurie, Independent Health Researcher, Health and Wellness Advocate, and member of the Healthy Caribbean Youth
- Mrs. Brenda Roach is a Registered Counselling Psychologist @rebalancechat, currently practicing in Barbados
- David Johnson, the founder of Let’s Unpack It, was the moderator of the session. He was accompanied by Stephanie Whiteman, Healthy Caribbean Youth member who moderated the Q&A segment of the discussion.
If you want to learn more about the panelists’ thoughts on the link between deaths by suicide and mental health challenges, challenges in creating environments that support mental health and how we as a community-at-large can build hope – watch the thought-provoking discussion here: