APF encourages real conversations for mental health

| 12/09/2019

(CNS Local Life): Continuing its mission to improve the mental health of children and young adults in the Cayman Islands, the Alex Panton Foundation (APF) has noted that this week, 8-14 September, is National Suicide Prevention Week in the United States, which this year is promoting the idea of having a real conversation about mental health. “You do not need to be a trained professional to have a #RealConvo and the Alex Panton Foundation want to encourage the importance of this. A conversation could be the first step to helping someone get the help they need,” the foundation stated.  

For ideas on how to start a conversation, see the APF website here

The AFP peer-led support group, Living with Anxiety and Depression, also provides a safe environment for young living with mental struggles to share their experiences. These free sessions, aimed at young adults between 18 and 25 living with anxiety and depression, will take place every Saturday, starting 14 September, at Constitution Hall in George Town.

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The foundation noted that the rate of attempted and actual suicide is on a rise in the Cayman Islands, particularly amongst children and young adults. “A recent national survey of all children and youth at Cayman Islands public and private schools, including the University College of the Cayman Islands, undertaken by the National Drug Council in collaboration with the Alex Panton Foundation (APF), produced statistics which supported this alarming fact.”

The survey found that one in three children who participated reported having suicidal ideas and 13% reported actual attempted suicide. However, only 5% percent of these children in need are seeking treatment. In response to this concerning data, the APF made a submission to the Law Reform Commission to decriminalise suicide. (See LRC poses decriminalising suicide)

Cayman is among the minority of countries that have archaic laws that still criminalises suicide or attempted suicide. While there are no reported cases of anyone being prosecuted for attempting suicide in the Cayman Islands, its decriminalization would align it with other progressive Commonwealth countries.

“Treatment, rather than prosecution, is the appropriate and recommended response for a person struggling with a mental health crisis,” the foundation said in a release. “Treating suicide as a crime as opposed to a mental health issue further perpetuates the stigma that currently shrouds mental illness. This perception creates a barrier that stops people seeking appropriate treatment.”

Furthermore, because it is still technically a crime, people who attempt suicide cannot access insurance benefits, so the problem is compounded because they are prevented from seeking treatment and support to address the underlying mental health difficulties and the chance of a better life.

The APF said the Mental Health Law, 2013 contains adequate provisions to allow police and paramedic intervention when a person is about to attempt to take his or her own life, suggesting that there is no reason for criminalising this.

“The public conversation that will result from this repeal will encourage further dialogue on mental illness in our community. Addressing mental health needs in our society has the potential to reduce delinquency and increase performance and motivation to succeed in our students which would help create more productive workforce.”

The APF added, “Addressing the suffering that is caused by mental illness to individuals and their families is an important step towards creating a healthier, more resilient and caring community.”

For more information, visit the APF website here or contact Jane Panton, at info@alexpantonfoundation.ky

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Category: Local News, Medical and Health

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