(CMR) Jane Panton, chair of the Alex Panton Foundation, said a Kids' Help Line, which has been in the pipeline for a while, will launch in 2024. She made the announcement during her message for World Mental Health Day.
Panton said the Foundation supports wholeheartedly this year's theme, ‘Mental health is a universal human right.’
See Panton's message in its entirety below:
Every year, World Mental Health Day is observed on 10 October. The theme for 2023, set by the World Foundation of Mental Health, is ‘Mental health is a universal human right.’ The team at the Alex Panton Foundation (APF) supports this proclamation wholeheartedly. Indeed, our mission is based on the principles of advocacy, awareness and support, which are all needed to achieve the ambitious yet reasonable goal of good mental health for all.
Here at home, we are greatly encouraged and motivated by the progress that has been made within our community as we hear about and participate in more open-minded and open-hearted conversations surrounding this topic. It is our hope that this increased interest and dialogue will further emphasize the fact that mental health is equally as important as our physical health and should be treated as such. We build a more resilient and compassionate community when we purposefully implement proactive mental health practices and ensure access to proper treatment for those who are battling unresolved mental health issues,
I am so proud of the work our organization has been able to do to help young people and their families thus far, and while we will continue to face challenges on the road ahead, we remain hopeful.
In the past year, we have taken on three full-time staff members. These hard-working young Caymanian women are passionate about the work we do and dedicated to enriching our community by advancing the mission of this foundation through our various programs and initiatives.
‘Prevention is better than cure’ is a very popular Caribbean saying and one to which we keenly subscribe. To that end, many of our programs are geared towards pre-empting mental health crises in our children and young persons before they arise and take root. I would like to highlight three of these, namely the emotional literacy (ELP), youth ambassadors (YAP) and financial assistance (FAP) programs.
Our emotional literacy program has been in all our public primary schools since 2019 and focuses on helping children learn skills that will allow them to communicate effectively, bring thoughts that are bothering them to the surface, and cope with challenging life situations that cause anxieties. Students work to develop their own positive strategies to deal with problems through engaging activities such as listening to stories, discussion, games, role-play, and drawing.
Our youth ambassadors program helps young people in the teen and young adult demographic find ways to plan their own paths forward and inspires them to offer peer support with compassion, understanding and active listening. The activities used in YAP challenge specific skills and provoke discussion to bring about necessary social change for a society where all can feel accepted for being who they are.
Where young people are already experiencing mental health challenges, we offer programs that help. Our financial assistance program connects young people aged 30 and under who require immediate assistance to financial aid to access mental health services. In the past year, we have expended almost $100k to help young people in need of mental health therapy who would not normally have the means to access it.
In January, Alex’s Place was opened in partnership with the Health Services Authority, an initiative we have been working on since the Foundation’s inception. I am so proud of this welcoming place that offers clinical support to young people who are in urgent need of mental health care.
Looking ahead, our Kids Help Line, which has been in the pipeline for a while, will launch in 2024. I am so excited about this service, which adds another layer of support for our young people in a way that will meet them where they’re at and will provide real-time assistance in a confidential manner.
While I am very proud of what APF has accomplished, I recognize there is still much work to be done. We know that people still suffer in silence, that there is still a need to fight the stigma of mental illness, and that more must be done to educate the masses about the equality between physical and mental health. At APF, we look at a person’s health holistically and believe that mental health is at the core of physical health.
If we believe mental health is a universal human right, then mental health support services should be accessible to all. There is much to be done to change the mindset of “it’s all in your head, get over it”. We are ensuring that we are providing education through various channels to support your loved ones suffering from mental illness. Anxiety and depression are mental illnesses that can be treated to wellness just as physical illnesses are treated with the objective of being well again.
On this year’s World Mental Health Day, I implore everyone who calls these beautiful Cayman Islands home to do at least one thing to mark the occasion. Ideas that come to mind include:
-Educating yourself about mental health. Websites like Nami.org, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, provide great information and resources.
-Listening without judgment to someone who is experiencing a mental health challenge and is trying to communicate what they are feeling.
-Volunteering with APF or another mental health awareness organization.
-Conducting your own mental health and wellness check. Speak to someone you trust or seek help from a Mental Health Services Provider if you are feeling overwhelmed or concerned that you are feeling emotional pain that you are unable to get past.
-Reaching out to a loved one that you know maybe finding life challenging.
-Expressing gratitude. This is something I try and practice every day, and I truly believe an attitude of gratitude for the good things happening to you brings about positive social change by each one paying their gratitude forward.
If you or someone you know needs mental health support, I urge you to reach out to someone trusted to determine a way forward. The Alex Panton Foundation is here to help connect you with the providers of mental health services or websites that can guide you through uneasy times before your situation becomes critical.
Visit our website AlexPantonFoundation.ky, where you can find information about our programs as well as resources to help you or a loved one that may be struggling.