Mental Health Matters: Mental Health Awareness Month

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May is Mental Health Awareness Month. The focus of Mental Health Awareness Month is to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health, promote mental health policy, and raise awareness about mental health issues. The green ribbon is the international symbol of mental health, and it should be worn to help begin a conversation about mental health.

EVERYONE HAS MENTAL HEALTH! It is our emotional wellbeing. Mental health is health, and it is important at all stages of life. In fact, the conversation should begin at an early age in the home; continue in primary, secondary, and tertiary school; and again, throughout our adult lives. Seeking help should be seen as a sign of strength, not as a weakness.

We must use Mental Health Awareness Month to continue raising awareness of mental health concerns for children and adolescents. According to UNICEF (2021), “In Latin America and the Caribbean, an estimated 15 percent of children and adolescents aged 10-19 – around 16 million – live with a diagnosed mental disorder. That’s higher than the global average of around 13 percent.” Surveys have been conducted in the region to manage and seek solutions to mental health issues of children and adolescents. Now is the time to review the results and take action.

We must also raise awareness of mental health concerns for adults. According to the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA, 2022), “The rising prevalence of mental health conditions in the Caribbean Region is a public health concern. In Latin America and the Caribbean, the most prevalent mental disorders are depressive and anxiety disorders.” Mental health should no longer be the elephant in the room or a taboo topic.

Mental health awareness includes having courageous conversations with family and friends about mental health. It means taking time on a regular basis to focus on your own wellbeing and practice self-care. It also includes advocacy. In Antigua and Barbuda, the Mental Health Treatment Act (Chapter 274) is dated 1 October 1957. The National Mental Health Policy was written in 2013. During Covid there was an increased focus on the need for mental health services in our communities. Mental health awareness is more than talk, it is also ACTION.

According to a study in the International Journal of Mental Health Systems (2022), when focused on small island developing states (SIDS), “Cross-cutting recommendations include: to develop mental health action plans that include clear implementation indicators; to facilitate community surveys to ascertain the prevalence of mental disorders; to explore task-sharing approaches to increase access to primary mental health care; and to develop programmes of mental health promotion and prevention.” We can all do our part and advocate for new policies and funding for mental health services in Antigua and Barbuda.

Also note that Mental Health Awareness Week is 13th-19th May, 2024. The theme this year is “Movement: Moving more for our mental health.” This campaign speaks to the power that physical activity has on increasing our mental wellbeing and reducing stress and burnout. It is important to discover what physical activity helps to improve your mental health. Something as simple as walking on the beach or in your neighborhood can bring peace of mind. Begin living mindfully today!

YOUR MENTAL HEALTH MATTERS!

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