Wed | Dec 1, 2021

Take youth mental health seriously

Published:Friday | October 22, 2021 | 12:09 AM

THE EDITOR, Madam:

The discourse surrounding mental health, though seem overdone, remains relevant among the youth in our society. This idea stems from the fact that youths between ages 18-29 are deemed as being most vulnerable/susceptible to experiencing a form of mental illness at some point. Often we tend to centre these conversations around the fact that, yes, mental health is important and it is the lesser privileged citizens that experience it; but have we ever thought about it on the basis of accessibility and availability to treatment and other services?

According to the Centre of Community Health and Development (2018), accessibility is creating an environment that can be used by all people without restriction, while on the other hand, availability refers to the quality of being able to be used or obtained easily. As a quite prominent topic of conversation, mental illness is not really seen or treated as something serious and this, therefore, causes victims to both self-diagnose themselves and ultimately become afraid to access treatment within public healthcare facilities due to the various societal inclinations and stigma that are attached to the said topic.

MATTER OF IMPORTANCE

Likewise, we have witnessed a large number of tertiary students who complain about being overwhelmed or pressured. This is a matter of grave importance, especially with classes being held virtually. Up to 75 per cent of people with mental illnesses start experiencing symptoms before they are 24, and beginning at a young age predicts recurrent episodes and long-term persistence. Additionally, adolescents have poor mental health literacy, unawareness of available resources, a preference for self-reliance, concerns regarding confidentiality or anonymity, scepticism about resource effectiveness, and stigma.

Mental health is not selective and we have seen a change in the narrative, where a large number of the youth population is being affected. There needs to be a radical change in regard to the way in which society views and addresses mental illness which, in and of itself, is of vast importance, but in reality, is deemed as trivial.

In addition, it is evident enough that the Government is not doing much to promote these services and that is why we have such a huge prevalence of youth victims not accessing treatment, or worse, not knowing that they are in fact suffering from mental illness. They can do more. In the same way focus is on COVID-19, HIV, fitness and physical well-being, etc, the same can be done about mental health. It is time we get rid of the societal biases that exist in regard to what we choose or not choose to promote and market within the public healthcare sector. Mental illness is of equal importance as all other illnesses and in order to further achieve development, we first have to remember that the mind is one of man’s greatest faculties. We need to take care of it!

LAMAR GRANT

Policy, advocacy and research

ambassador

TransWave Jamaica