Looking back to move forward – Caribbean Youth Mental Health

by HCC

On Thursday 27th April, 2023 almost 200 people took part in our webinar: Looking Back to Move Forward – Caribbean Youth Mental Health, reflecting on the ongoing progress and effects that the CYMHCTA has inspired in our Caribbean context and even internationally.

The objectives of the ‘Looking Back to Move Forward – Caribbean Youth Mental Health’ webinar were to:

  1. To review the MHCTA objectives and their fulfillment
  2. To highlight the primary and secondary effects of the MHCTA campaign
  3. To highlight current and future regional efforts to better support youth mental health

Moderators

Neorgia Grant

Neorgia Grant
HCY Member

Stephanie Whiteman

Stephanie Whiteman
HCY Member and Project Lead MHCTA

Panelists

Gabrielle Edwards

Gabrielle Edwards
HCY Member and MHCTA Lead in The Bahamas

Sahar Vasquez

Sahar Vasquez
HCY Member and MHCTA Lead in Belize

David Johnson

David Johnson
MHCTA Subcommittee Member and President and Founder, LUI OR

Simone Bishop-Matthews

Simone Bishop-Matthews
HCY Member and MHCTA Lead in Trinidad and Tobago

Shannique Bowden

Shannique Bowden
MHCTA Lead in Jamaica and Executive Director, JYAN

Dr. Karen Sealey

Dr. Karen Sealey
Chair TTNCDA, HCC Board Director and CSO Support to MHCTA team in Trinidad and Tobago

Ms. Jhanille Brooks

Ms. Jhanille Brooks
Mental Health and Psychosocial Support Consultant, UNICEF Jamaica

Maria Boyce-Taylor

Maria Boyce-Taylor
Associate Director Client and Employee Engagement CIBC First Caribbean

Laura Lewis-Watts

Laura Lewis-Watts
Project Lead NCD Child Secretariat, NCD Child

Dr. Claudina Cayetano

Dr. Claudina Cayetano
Mental Health Regional Advisor, Noncommunicable Diseases and Mental Health, PAHO

Dr. Brian MacLachlan

Dr. Brian MacLachlan
Senior Consultant Psychiatrist, Psychiatric Hospital, Barbados

Find out more about the Caribbean Youth Mental Health Call to Action

3 young people delivering a message about mental health to an officialBackground

Mental health has been recognised as an integral element of overall health and as a basic and fundamental right,[1] however its limited prioritization and promotion in national health agendas or policies through the necessary financial and human resources, sends a contradictory message. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to expose the inequities – tolerated by our societies until now, not only in terms of our health but the socioeconomic areas linked to it.[2] Amidst the onset of this global pandemic, the mental health and well-being of groups such as health and frontline workers, women, young people, people living with pre-existing mental health conditions, racial and ethnic minorities, and people living in conditions of vulnerability, were particularly impacted.[2]

In light of this, youth from the Healthy Caribbean Coalition (HCC)’s youth arm – Healthy Caribbean Youth (HCY) and across the Caribbean region, embarked on a journey to advocate for and encourage more dialogue and action by our regional policymakers and the public, around the mental health and well-being of our children and youth.

On October 10th 2022, World Mental Health Day, the HCY, with support from youth advocates and civil society organizations across the region, launched the Caribbean Youth Mental Health Call to Action (CYMHCTA). It emphasized a renewed focus on youth mental health and wellbeing, by tailoring and transforming mental health systems in the Caribbean. Sparked by the concerns and experiences shared from youth and other key voices during two webinars held by the HCC, the CYMHCTA was conceptualised. To ensure adequate regional representation, stakeholders were consulted across ten (10) countries such as Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Guyana, Jamaica, St. Lucia, The Bahamas and Trinidad and Tobago. This document could not be possible without the valuable input and feedback from over 50 consultations held with various stakeholders, including youth advocates, youth organisations, national civil society organisations, private sector, secondary school students, primary and secondary school teachers and underrepresented groups such as persons living with non-communicable diseases (PLWNCDs), and representatives from Indigenous and LGBTQIA+ communities.

Under the slogan of “There’s no health without mental health”, the CYMHCTA took the region by storm. It garnered regional support from government officials, youth organizations, UNICEF Jamaica and the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), as well as international organisations such as the Pan-American Health Organisation (PAHO). Youth from countries such as Barbados, Belize, Jamaica, The Bahamas and Trinidad and Tobago, spearheaded the movement in their respective countries and continue to advocate for the prioritization of the four (4) key calls highlighted in the CYMHCTA:

  • Leadership-to prioritize integration of mental health into existing health policies and emergency plans and ensure youth are meaningfully engaged.
  • Research-to inform mental health programming and policies.
  • Regulations-to protect children and youth from health-harming products, harassment, stigma and discrimination.
  • Services-to support the mental health and well-being of children and youth.

Since its launch, the CYMHCTA has amplified the voices of youth in the development of youth-focused mental health policies and plans. HCY members and other youth advocates, with support from in-country civil society organisations, continue to bolster, and foster, relationships with key policymakers. Consequently, being invited to high-level meetings with various national ministry representatives and other key stakeholders and; in the planning and development of youth-centered mental health programs and policies in Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago.

Register for the Looking Back to Move Forward – Caribbean Youth Mental Health webinar.


[1] “Policy for Improving Mental Health – PAHO/WHO.” 28 Feb. 2023, https://www.paho.org/en/documents/policy-improving-mental-health.

[2] “The forgotten victims of the pandemic: children and adolescents.” 13 Dec. 2021, https://www.cepal.org/en/insights/forgotten-victims-pandemic-children-and-adolescents.

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