October 9-16 is being celebrated as World Mental Health Week with the theme ‘Psychological First Aid’ this year, and the Jamaica Mental Health Advocacy Network (JaMHAN) is all set to observe the global initiative. Aimed at raising greater awareness about #mentalhealthmatters in Jamaica, the week’s roster, which kicks off with a church service this Sunday, provides several opportunities for the public to engage in discussions about mental health. The main highlight, however, is the official launch of its social media awareness campaign and online referral network on World Mental Health Day — Monday, October 10.
Supported by the Embassy of the United States of America, the launch, presented as a forum, will illustrate JaMHAN’s education drive which clarifies the importance of understanding and recognising good mental health for the public, thus allowing anyone to become a “mental health first responder”. Keynote address for the event will be delivered by Hakeem Rahim, Ed.M., MA. — noted author and certified speaker with the (American) National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI). He is also the founder of Live Breathe LLC, a company that focuses on mental health advocacy and educational consulting. Rahim began speaking openly about his 15-year-journey with Bipolar Disorder in 2012 and has since become an experienced advocate on issues surrounding mental health and social/community support.
Counselling psychologist and mental health advocate Jhanille A. Brooks, founder and chairperson of JaMHAN, strongly believes this will be instrumental in changing the way we view mental illness in Jamaica and, by extension, the way we treat such challenged individuals.
“The forum is a call to action for mental health practitioners, encouraging them to join our Referral Network. It will also focus on mental health in Jamaica, which we will explore through the concept of ‘Psychological First Aid’. This means any member of the public should be able to properly identify issues and, when needed, refer their peers for psychosocial aid or intervention so things do not escalate as far as they potentially can,” she explains.
Additional activities include a #mentalhealthmatters Twitter chat in association with eMotion at 7:30 PM on Wednesday and a Mental Wellness Through The Arts yoga/dance workshop at The Student’s Union, UWI Mona campus, at 2:00 PM on Thursday. JaMHAN is excited about the week of events and looks forward to hosting Rahim and hearing the public’s views at Monday’s launch. Other participants in the forum will include representatives from the ministries of Health and Education, Mental Health NGOs and persons directly or indirectly affected by mental illness. The launch is slated for Monday, 5:30 PM at the Spanish Court Hotel.