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By Carlena Knight

With days to go before Mental Health Awareness Month comes to a close, two groups have collaborated to provide a virtual therapy series for the public.

Transformation Through Therapy (TTT) and Initiate Spark will be streaming ‘Mask Off’, a Covid conversation series which focusses on mental health and how people cope during the pandemic.

Initiate Spark director, Jamie Saunders, says the initiative will consist of a four-part video series as well as a social media challenge.

“Now the four-part video series draws on persons from the community from a variety of different social professional economic backgrounds because, just like Covid-19, mental health does not discriminate based on these things; it affects everybody.

“These persons are basically giving their insight into things such as cultural stigma around mental health in Antigua and Barbuda. They’re giving insight into coping mechanisms that they have been using and they’re also just very authentic and vulnerable videos,” he said.

The social media challenge invites the public to take a video of themselves while answering two questions, namely, how Covid-19 has impacted their mental health, and what coping strategies they have been using.

Saunders also spoke on the impetus behind the project.

“We wanted to use this opportunity of Mental Health Awareness Month to give a platform to mental health here in Antigua and Barbuda and to just encourage the general public to get involved. It really will require a cross sectoral and collaborative approach in order to get things started and to provide a climate here in Antigua and an infrastructure that’s inclusive towards persons who are suffering with mental health and will meet their needs,” he said.

T’mira Looby, founder of TTT, said she hopes the series will help normalise mental health issues.

“The hope is that from this video series that the public is going to see people in the community getting vulnerable and sharing their stories and once people see this they may relate to some of the things that are being said and encourage people to break down their shell a little bit – ‘take their mask off’ and share their stories.

“Ultimately, what we want for this to do is normalise the fact that we all go through mental health issues and when I am talking about mental health issues it doesn’t have to be the more extreme things but things as simple as stress, anxiety, depression, isolation or sadness.”

Both Looby and Saunders thanked Chaso Media, the contributors and experts and the Ministry of Health for their help.

Interested individuals can log on to any social media site and search for @TTT.Antigua or @initiatespark to access the series.

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