Students give thumbs up to Dynamic Mental Health School Marathon Series

Associate editor — news/health

Sunday, March 17, 2019

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IF the response from students at last Friday's soft launch of Dynamic Mental Health School Marathon Series is anything to go by, the official launch scheduled for Friday, March 22 at St Andrew Technical High School will be a hit among the target audience.

The brainchild of Lifestyle and Transformation Coach Patrice White of The Dynamic Lifestyle, the mental health school marathon series, which made its first stop of the tour at Ardenne High School in St Andrew, will see the team visiting several schools across the island as they try to raise awareness about mental health issues and break the associated stigma.

Students from Glenmuir High School in Clarendon also joined Ardenne High students at the soft launch, which featured presentations from tour partners Victoria Mutual Group and National Baking Company, as well as social media personality Russhaine “Dutty Berry” Berry, recording artiste Jada Kingdom — who has spoken about her battle with bipolar depression and anxiety — and clinical psychologist Dr Sonia Wynter.

“I think it's really affirmative and is really a great platform to break the stigma as it relates to mental health issues,” Glenmuir High student Christina Blake told the Jamaica Observer on Friday.

“I think that in Jamaica, a lot of persons are not aware on mental health, and platforms like these are really great for students, to inform them, and we are equipped with the knowledge to go back to our school environment and share the information,” she said.

Blake also said the added entertainment made the session “really edutaining”.

“I just really loved the vibe and the fact that they [worked] with the UNAJ (United Nations Association of Jamaica), focusing on SDG 3 (Sustainable Development Goal), which is about good health and well-being, and mental health really comes under good health and well-being,” added Blake, who is in grade 13.

According to Ardenne High student Marc Anthony Mitchell, what he loved was the interactive nature of the session.

“It was very interactive and I actually learnt a lot about mental health.”

He said, too, that he learnt a lot about saving money and life from the presentation by Victoria Mutual Building Society.

White, who shared that she came up with the concept for the series last September, said she felt compelled to do it so people can know it is okay to say “I am not okay”.

“We all go through the every day struggles of being stressed... I have been there. What I suffer from is serious mental depression... In 2015 I decided I was not going to have this depression control my life, so I found an outlet that would become my therapy, and that outlet was me running,” White told the audience on Friday.

She said she runs early in the morning and, besides being a marathon runner, she has found that being on the road is therapeutic.

However, things came to a head last October.

“On the 21st of October (2018), I wanted my life to end,” White shared. “And if you look on my social media page, you see me travelling and you might be saying, 'Oh my God, she has everything together'. But mentally, I allowed my disease to come back and take over my life.”

The lifestyle and transformation coach said it was through talking to her best friend that night that she was able to find an outlet for what she was going through. She said, too, that after having those suicidal thoughts, friends would call and check on her daily to ensure she was doing okay.

She, therefore, urged the students with mental health issues to reach out for help and not wait until it is too late.

“If I didn't have somebody to call that night, the print media would print about me, 'Businesswoman commits suicide',” an obviously passionate White said.

She shared that part of the mental health tour's mandate is to work with guidance counsellors in schools to help students in need.

“If you're having any issues and you need to speak to somebody, all you have to do, guys, is just send me an e-mail at dynamicmentalhealthsms and we will reach out to you; we align you with a professional psychologist that you can talk to, that you can vent to,” White told the students.

She also insisted that the bottom line is to win and survive.

White said, too, that the school tour's mission is to ensure that people know how to deal with the diseases associated with mental health and to raise awareness about how they manifest, as well as treatment options.

Meanwhile, students shared their experiences with social media use during Dutty Berry's presentation, which included social media health tips. Students also posed several probing questions to Dr Wynter, who encouraged and reminded them that there is always hope.

In fact, she gave them pointers and discussed the signs to look for in their friends, telling them that a good way to start the conversation is to simply say: “I notice you're not yourself. I care about you, tell me what's happening.”

The session was topped off with a performance by Jada Kingdom, who had the students singing along.

After stopping at St Andrew Technical High School on Friday for the official launch, the next stop on the school tour is expected to be Kingston College.

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