The overuse of devices with screens such as mobile phones and television is being linked to a decreasing trend in human social interactions and episodes of depression, anxiety, as well as lower levels of happiness among youths. In an effort to spread awareness of the negative effects of screen time on the mental health of young people, the Psychiatry & Behavioural Health Department of the Health Services Authority (HSA) held various educational sessions and activities throughout October as the country observed World Mental Health Day (WMHD).
WMHD, annually celebrated on 10 October, focused on the theme of ‘Young people and mental health in a changing world’ this year. The World Health Organisation stated that, “The expanding use of online technologies, while undoubtedly bringing many benefits, can also bring additional pressures, as connectivity to virtual networks at any time of the day and night grows.”
The WHO appealed for more to be done to help build mental resilience from an early age to prevent mental distress and illness among adolescents and young adults. It advises governments and particularly those in the social, health and education sectors to develop initiatives that educate these age groups on ways to look after their mental health, and to help peers, parents and teachers know how best to provide support to a young person going through mental illness.
Experts from the Psychiatry & Behavioural Health Department worked together with the Ministry of Health, the Youth Services Unit, private organisations in the mental health field, churches and schools across the Cayman Islands to host a range of activities targeting children and adolescents. These activities included a youth debate at the North Side Seventh Day Adventist Church and a 45-minute educational session at George Town Primary School, Sir John A Cumber Primary School, Savannah Primary School, Red Bay Primary School and Prospect Primary School.
“We wanted to focus heavily on prevention, and as half of all mental illnesses begin by the age of 14, it was most reasonable to speak to Year 6 students who fall within the 10-12 age range. At this stage they may be very susceptible to content shown on television, video games and the internet, and may already have begun to experience some of the negative effects of growing up in a technological age such as cyber-bullying,” said Kenneth Figueira, Occupational Therapist at HSA.
WMHD 2018 initiatives also focused on the training of health practitioners as well as members of the public on how to detect and assist persons experiencing mental health problems. To coincide with the health day, the HSA in conjunction the Pan American Health Organization, sponsored and hosted the sixth Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training session in the Cayman Islands at the Cayman Islands Hospital.
“The aim of delivering the MHFA course is to make it a priority in these islands on par with physical first aid. Over 125 mental health first aiders have been trained at the HSA since the inception of the course, making it the leading mental health training course on the island. The journey since the beginning has been rewarding and individuals who have participated thus far have rated it highly, expressing that they have learned so much on issues related to mental illness and mental health in their everyday lives and the lives of their loved ones,” said Pamella Williams, Mental Health Nurse and co-facilitator of the course.
Head of Psychiatry & Behavioural Health Department Dr Arline McGill noted, “Although there has been increased awareness throughout the island through the MHFA training and other forums, the idea of MHFA and providing mental health support is still fairly new for most. We are reminded every year on WMHD that it is very important to focus on our mental health as we develop and create healthy minds as we do our bodies. Promoting this balanced approach is much dependent on our knowledge and understanding of our mental health and the different issues we might encounter that can and will affect us in our daily lives.”
For more information on our mental health services please contact the Department of Psychiatry & Behavioural Health of the Health Services Authority (345) 244-2650.