BASSETERRE, St. Kitts — The importance of utilizing protective factors in safeguarding mental health, as related cases are increasing in the Federation, especially among the youth is being stressed by officials from the Ministry of Health in St. Kitts.
Clinical Psychologist, Dr. Cherrilyn Crawford, said that there are a number of protective factors that individuals can implement in their lives to lower the risk of developing a mental illness. Some of these protective factors include self-care, good nutrition, exercise, sleep and positive social influences.
“Mental health and physical health go hand in hand. There is no health without good mental health,” she stated.
Dr. Crawford said it is important for youth to get involved in after-school programmes and clubs to form social circles where they can be active and interact with others in the community. She noted that this is a way for them to stay mentally and physically healthy and avoid being in isolation.
Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Hazel Laws said a lot of youth do not see mental illness as something that they can suffer from and are fearful of seeking help because they do not want to be stigmatized by their peers. She noted that persons should look at mental illness as a condition like any other physical condition and treat it equally.
Dr. Laws stressed the importance of parents being involved in their children’s lives. This involvement, she said, can help them to develop the proper life skills needed to cope with the risk factors that may lead to mental illnesses. These life skills include conflict resolution, communication, negotiation skills and problem solving.
“Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of, it is something to get help for,” Dr. Crawford explained. “It is important that as you [young persons] mature, you become mentally resilient whereby you are aware of your emotions and able to learn behaviours that can help you bounce back quickly when you’ve experienced hard knocks in life.”
Dr. Laws outlined that there are a number of services that the youth can access to aid them with mental health issues such as the psychiatric ward at the Joseph N. France General Hospital, the Dr. Arthur Lake Mental Health Day Treatment Centre, and the five mental health clinics throughout the Federation.