The CARICOM community issued a statement on Tuesday, announcing the launch of a survey meant to study the mental health and well being of young citizens in the region. The effort is a partnership between CARICOM and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
The survey’s official date also coincides with the celebration of the World Mental Health Day which in itself seems quite appropriate. The theme for this year is “Mental health is a universal human right”.
The survey is a part of the preparations required to achieve CARICOM’s goal no. 3 under its Youth Development Action Plan. This plan is geared towards improving the health of the young population in a holistic manner.
The efforts are also in conjunction with the United Nation Sustainable Development Goals target 2 and 3.
Michele Small-Bartley, who holds the position of Deputy Programme Manager, Youth Development at the CARICOM Secretariat explained that by collaborating with the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) a program or action plan can be devised to develop and promote young leaders with in the community.
A more direct and immediate aim of the program would be to help practitioners identify signs and symptoms associated with mental health issues or psychological distress in young individuals. The program also looks to use trainees as first responders in situations where people are likely to develop psychological issues.
The Deputy Programme Manager also added that the implementation of this program was vital to the youth of the region, as in the current climate, it is the youth and their issues with mental health which are dominating the conversational landscape.
Even the 2023 UN Climate Change Conference (COP 28) will look at this issue with the intention of addressing it at the world stage.
“Exposure to environmental issues associated with climate change and social and economic challenges, further exacerbated by the impact of COVID-19 occurring at the member state level, has affected young people’s ability to navigate their pathway successfully. These issues have heightened youth vulnerability, making them more susceptible to psychosocial, emotional and mental health issues.”
A prior study by UNICEF which was focused on the Caribbean and Latin America laid bare the fact that 27 per cent of youth respondents were experiencing anxiety, while 15 per cent were depressed.
The study also revealed that one in every two young individuals lacked the motivation to complete their daily tasks and 43 per cent of females expressed dissatisfaction with the future. When compared to the men who amounted to 31 per cent of the test group.
This new joint effort by CARICOM and UNICEF is seen as the best way to identify and mitigate mental health issues in the target population.
The idea is to employ a survey instrument which will help accurately depict the measures of depression, anxiety, well-being and other markers of good or bad mental health.
The data collected will then be made available in the public domain and will be generated and published by both CARICOM and UNICEF as a joint exercise.
The entire exercise and related mechanisms are ultimately aiming to help young individuals cope with mental health issues and develop the skills to maintain a better level of psychological health.