About 50 students wearing all sorts of attention-grabbing hats marched and danced from the Festival Village Grounds to Queen Elizabeth II Park on Monday morning.
The parade celebrated World Mental Health Day, which fell on Monday and is observed globally.
“World Mental Health Day is an annual celebration per- formed by the World Health Organisation that brings awareness to persons living with mental illness — and also to educate the whole world on their mental health wellness,” said Dr. Virginia Rubaine, director of Community Mental Health Services.
The WHO stated on its website that the observance also provides an opportunity for all stakeholders to discuss how to improve mental health care.
For Dr. Rubaine, paying attention to children’s mental health is particularly important.
“If everybody remembers, we had Irma and we had the pandemic, and I think this particular cohort has had to go through more than any children have ever,” she said. “I think a lot of them are suffering in silence. They may be quiet, but they’re suffering too. Just because we can’t hear their voices doesn’t mean they don’t have pain.”
Elmore Stoutt High School 12th graders Erieana Bobb and Trishelle Dawson said they attended the parade at the suggestion of their art teacher and school counselor.
“I like doing things just to support awareness,” Ms. Bobb said. “I’m totally enjoying it.”
Ms. Dawson explained that she added butterflies to her hat to represent fragility and she added a crown to highlight the importance of protecting the brain. Ms. Bobb’s hat represented different hair types.
“I just want to bring awareness to the mental health of different races and just being yourself,” she said.
The parade also brought out stakeholders in the mental health field like Shaquoya Farrington, who works at the Behavioural Health Unit at the hospital. She wore a hat ringed with items including soap, a sanitary napkin, deodorant and tweezers.
“The items I have on my hat are things that women have to do to help them with their mental health,” she explained. “I witness mentally ill patients come on our unit every day. So I take part in helping them. It’s very important for others to know about this. Mental health is very important.”
CMHS also plans to host a fundraiser at the Governor’s House in January that will focus on suicide prevention, according to Dr. Rubaine.
A silent auction will raise funds for students who want to study in the field of mental health services. The agency is also embarking on a two-year campaign to fight stigma and discrimination around mental illness, she added.
‘Leaps and bounds’
“I’ve been here for 20 years, and I’ve seen mental health services grow in leaps and bounds,” Dr. Rubaine said. “We have a plethora of private practitioners that offer services that we didn’t have before. Things are getting better. They can be even better if we work together.”