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By Latrishka Thomas

MPs in the National Youth Parliament Association of Antigua and Barbuda (NYPAAB) took a stand for proper mental health and youth rehabilitation in a mock debate held yesterday.

The Youth Rehabilitation and Development Center Act 2020 was created by Youth MP for St Paul, Jahmaal Frederick, as “an Act to establish a modern facility built in Antigua and Barbuda geared towards the moulding and rehabilitation of both young males and females within a safe and caring environment”.

The MP for All Saints East and St Luke, Esquire Henry, was one of the many members who supported the Bill, sharing that one’s upbringing has a significant impact on one’s future.

“I also find it very interesting that the majority of Antiguan delinquents come from impoverished areas. My colleagues, this is why we need to think of a better solution than our current correctional system,” he said.

“It is common knowledge that if you put fresh bread in a bag of mouldy bread, it will start to grow its own mould…likewise if you wash your clothes with dirty water, your clothes will never truly be clean.”

All Saints West MP, Tre Joseph also identified with that Bill and stated that many young people deserve a second chance because sometimes they are merely attempting to make a better life for themselves using the wrong outlet.

“Imagine going to school on a rainy day with holes in your shoes and then when you get to school you’re getting teased because your feet smell. Imagine fighting through hunger to focus in class … imagine my fellow millennials, imagine not having internet,” he argued as he empathised with juvenile delinquents.

The other Bill debated by the youthful MPs was the Mental Health Act of 2019, which was pioneered by Chaneil Imhoff, the MP for St Peter.

The Mental Health Act aims to provide “for the promotion and protections of the rights of persons with mental illness, mental disorder, mental impairment or mental disability”.

Samantha Simon, MP for St John’s Rural East, added her two cents to the Bill, as she shared that she lost her grandmother to a mental illness simply because her family found out when it was too late.

She therefore supported the Bill saying, “I feel like in Antigua and Barbuda, we have a lack of support for persons when it comes to mental health or awareness. Many persons may have a mental illness and may not even know it simply because that information isn’t readily available to them as well as their family members may not recognise this,” Simon said.

Meanwhile, in his presentation, the MP for Barbuda, Ezekiel Francois, urged parents and guardians to pay close attention to the mental state of their children.

“I think there is neglect from parents, which brings along [mental issues] … at what stage of a child’s life do we put aside mental health?” he queried.

He emphasised that mental health is equally as important as physical health.

The other MPs in the NYPAAB are Caleb Gardiner, St John’s City West; Crystal Valentine-Willock, St John’s City East; Kezron Jackson, St John’s Rural West; Romario Hughes, St John’s Rural South; Annia Matthews, St Phillip’s North; and Michael Mitchell, St Phillip’s South.

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