GEORGETOWN, Guyana – The Guyana-based Caribbean Community (CARICM) Secretariat says it is launching a survey on the mental health and well-being issues experienced by young people across the region.
The survey is being undertaken in partnership with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and coincides with World Mental Health Day on Tuesday under the theme “Mental Health is a universal human right”.
The Secretariat said that the survey results will inform activities associated with achieving Goal #3 of the CARICOM Youth Development Action Plan to improve the health and holistic well-being of adolescents and youth and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals Target 3 and 4.
Deputy Program Manager, Youth Development at the CARICOM Secretariat, Michele Small-Bartley, said that the Secretariat, in collaboration with the Pan American Health Organization ( PAHO), would utilize the results from the data analysis to develop a program that will seek to build the capacity of youth practitioners and leaders across the Community.
Specifically, the program would assist practitioners in identifying mental health and psychological signs and symptoms among youth, she said, adding that the trainees would act as first responders to assisting youth with challenges that may lead to mental health, psychological or emotional issues.
The Deputy Program Manager said that the survey is being implemented at a critical moment for the region, as mental health and youth dominate discussions and agendas of regional and international conferences, including the upcoming 2023 UN Climate Change Conference (COP 28)
“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 study by UNICEF in 2020 conducted in Latin America and the Caribbean revealed that 27 per cent of youth respondents were experiencing anxiety, while 15 per cent were depressed. Additionally, one in every two young persons lacked the motivation to do their usual activities. Notably, 43 per cent of females expressed dissatisfaction with the future, compared to 31 per cent of males. Three in every four felt the need to ask for help.
The CARICOM-UNICEF survey results would be integral to formulating strategies to build the capacity of youth to identify, manage and seek solutions to these mental health issues.
In addition, Small-Bartley shared that the project will commence with collecting data using a survey instrument that measures depression, general anxiety, well-being, and support. The CARICOM Secretariat and UNICEF will jointly generate and publish the report in the public domain from the collected and analyzed data.
The initiative’s overarching goal is to build Caribbean Youth’s resilience to cope with challenges that may lead to psychological issues for better mental health outcomes, the Secretariat added.