Thu | Jul 2, 2020

Health matters: former festival queen seeks to promote mental wellness

Published:Sunday | June 7, 2020 | 12:00 AMShanna Monteith - Sunday Gleaner Writer
Miss Jamaica Festival Queen 2016 Kyesha Randall being fitted with her crown.

SHARING IN the conversation around National Mental Health Month, which is recognised in May, the non-profit organisation Motivate Ja hosted a three-day online forum from May 25 to 27 dubbed ‘Mental Matters’.

The organisation, which was launched as the national project of the Miss Jamaica Festival Queen 2016 pageant winner Kyesha Randall, aims to use the hearts and talents of those involved to have on impact on lives, improve character, and enrich experience.

Outlining the thought behind their latest initiative, which was hosted on Zoom, Randall said: “Mental Matters was focused on opening up a safe space for persons to share and learn about mental health and wellness in Jamaica. We also had viewers from Europe, Canada, and the US tuning in. The conversation of breaking the stigma was very important for this campaign as well because the community of silent sufferers is very large, and Motivate Ja wanted to focus on educating persons that mental health matters, and we have to talk more about it so that together, we can learn how to play our parts in providing community assistance to those who are held hostage to unhealthy emotions and how we can involve ourselves in mental-health promotion, prevention, care, and rehabilitation.”

Randall described the inspiration behind the event as her truth.

“I am a silent sufferer, and navigating my emotions and mental wellness has become a part of my daily life. Some days are better than some, and during COVID, it became increasingly difficult to get a hold on my anxiety. I hated the feeling, and I knew there had to be others like me who were on the same emotional roller coaster, if not worse. I was honestly just looking for a community of supporters, and God led me here to be the person who provided what I was looking for. If I should credit inspiration, it would be to God for putting this in my heart and granting me the added strength to see it through so that so many more lives like my own could be helped,” she shared.

Mental Matters was a three-tiered campaign that focused on opening up about one’s state of mind and asking for help, coping and caring for oneself and others who go through mental unwellness; breaking the stigma, and rehabilitation strategies and facilities that are available.

According to Randall: “The support was great! I wanted to make the programme discussions very interesting and without bias, so Motivate Ja partnered with organisations - such as the Jamaican Psychological Society, who were the first to respond to our request - [in order] to have only professionals present on the topics we explored. Motivate Ja partnered with the Jamaica Mental Health Advocacy Network (JAMHAN), which is a host of professionals and advocates offering counselling and training services as they seek to raise awareness and reduce stigma surrounding mental illness, and also included were special guests who are still battling or have battled with mental disorders.

“This campaign had 93 persons who registered to be part off the Zoom discussions. We have also gotten feedback that persons are expecting this to be an ongoing part of Motivate Ja initiatives, and I take that as a compliment for all the hard work that went into this by all the persons who were on board and did the late nights to ensure that we had a seamless online process from registration to end.”

Noting the importance of forums such as Mental Matters, Assistant Director at JAMHAN Bathsheba Shaw, who presented on Night 3 of the event, said: “It can assist with normalising conversations surrounding mental health within families. This is against the background that we all have mental health-related experiences, and oftentimes, it’s our families that is our first point of contact when we are at the height of a mental-health crisis. If families are able to openly participate in these discussions, it creates an opportunity for stigmas to be demystified, and public education can take place, thus reinforcing mental-health facts. The Jamaican family wins when we are more equipped to help each other to navigate instances where our loved ones are enduring a difficult mental-health experience, or in some cases, a lifelong mental illness.”

Also contributing to the conversation was Tamalcia Johnson, who admitted she had been healed from depression through prayer.

“The important thing is that we don’t have to live with our mental illnesses because Jesus died for that, too. As human beings, we tend to operate as though God is partial or limited, as if His grace only covers some things while we take care of the rest, but that is far from what is. We may see mental illness as a mountain before us, but in the eyes of the Lord, it’s just an ant hill.

“It is my hope that persons would have left with the understanding that God is literally waiting to rid us of our burdens. It was never His intention for us to bear them alone and that attendees have a greater understanding of the power of prayer. When people of faith unite in intercession, the results are undeniable. Healing is available, through Jesus, for those with mental illnesses, too,” Johnson shared.