Antigua Film Academy hosts first mental health awareness fair

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Film Academy students took centre stage on Wednesday
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As the world continues to celebrate Mental Health Awareness Month, the Antigua Film Academy held its first ever health fair – dubbed ‘Mental Illness in Healthy Youths – the Paradox’ – this week at Indies Green.

It was a full house with academy students’ friends and family making up the bulk of the audience.

There were also a few notable guests including Bob Foster, from England, CEO of the Wadadli Short Film Festival, and Donna Matthews, CEO of Pure Earth Skincare.

The evening saw several individuals making presentations on various topics linked to mental illness.

President of the Motion Picture Association, Francine Carby, was the opening speaker of the night and explained that the main purpose of the event was to bring awareness to mental illnesses.

There were calls made by Doctor Alvin Edwards for the community to embrace and assist talented youth as well.

“If they are to succeed and make meaningful contributions to the development of our twin island state, we have to ensure that they are mentally stable and cognisant of deviations,” he said.

Dr Edwards said local Antiguans have travelled all over the world making contributions, not only in science but in the creative arts, and gave an example of his daughter who is presently in Ghana creating content and sharing Antiguan culture in the motherland, Africa.

Several of the Film Academy students also gave presentations on mental health.

During theirs, Joel Lewis and Ghenae Emmanuel spoke about conditions like anxiety, schizophrenia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

They also discussed the symptoms of mental illness in adults and adolescents, offering examples such as changes in school performance, excessive worry or anxiety, hyperactive behaviour and frequent nightmares.

They also spoke about where one can get help and referred those in need to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 463-5555.

Meanwhile, Noah Yeboah and Shenika Bentick presented on the issue of depression.

Yeboah highlighted the symptoms of depression, which include sleep disturbances, energy loss, and a lack of interest in activities, while Bentick discussed treatment such as psychotherapy, medicine, and exercise.

The two concluded by advising the audience to encourage anyone who appears to be suffering from depression or other mental illness to seek help.

Sheneilla Sommerset and Destiny Simon wrapped up the discussion segment by addressing the issue of suicide.

Sommerset outlined the warning indicators, while Simon ended with a message about suicide prevention, encouraging the audience to be on the lookout for signs and symptoms of suicidal feelings in their friends and loved ones.

A number of short films written by students of the Film Academy were also shown, which addressed various themes of mental health.

Doctor Noel Howell wrapped up the evening by discussing the effects of social media on mental wellbeing.

 He explained the positive aspects of social media and how it can advance children’s educational development.

He then addressed the negative effects, pointing out how excessive use of social media can be harmful and lead to feelings of inadequacy about one’s life or appearance.

 Other negative effects such as the fear of missing out, isolation, and self- absorption were also discussed. 

The evening wrapped up with cocktails, during which most of the attendees expressed satisfaction with the evening’s presentations.

 The next event for the Antigua Film Academy will be the launch of ‘Love, Friendship and Betrayal’, a book written by six of the students.

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