Cayman needs a new mental health facility, but we also need a much more supportive mental health curriculum in our private and public schools. With mental health issues presenting as high as 25-30% in Cayman’s student population, both the government and the private school systems are increasingly overwhelmed with trying to provide enough support.
Private schools are often resistant to opening up their doors to those they consider ‘problem children’. And in the public schools, class sizes can be up to 28 people. With only one teacher instructing a class with up to six to eight students in that class experiencing academic challenges and/or emotional, behavioural or mental disorders, it can be overwhelmingly difficult to distribute appropriate attention. Often, these children are side-lined, and the lack of focus and attention then leads to more problematic behaviour.
The newly founded Education Council have clearly seen that there is a need for change. As of September 2019, all government primary school classes will have one teacher and one teaching assistant; if properly qualified, these assistants will be a huge help. Also, the power of hiring (and firing) teachers will be removed from the Department of Education, who have been routinely accused of hiring too late and then doing a blanket hire of teachers without regard to the grade or school that they are needed for. The government have also set up the Office of Education Standards, who have the task of inspecting every single school in Cayman at least once every two years. These reports, which are freely available online, clearly lay out the positives and negatives in each school, and have offered parents and stakeholders a clear look at what the issues are and what needs to be done. So there is change afoot, not just in schools, but also in the community as a whole.
In an attempt to offer support to those kids in need, and counteract the lack of support in the family social structure, Christopher Murray founded the programme ‘Boyz 2 Men’ in 2009. The programme pairs Year 11 boys with volunteer male mentors in order to establish a strong role model in their lives. Ten years later, his programme is still going strong and has made huge changes to many young men’s lives. His aim has always been to allow an open discussion on what it means to be a “kind, gentle, honest and forgiving man who contributes to his family”. He feels that having a role model that exemplifies these values is the crux of the learning.
Having good role models and sharing the core values of caring, honesty, inclusiveness, respect, responsibility and faith was what inspired Dr. Randy Von Kanel, pastor of the Cayman Islands Baptist Church, to bring the YMCA to the Cayman Islands. In the summer of 2014, the YMCA began offering its first programmes and it has grown exponentially since. It now offers affordable day camps in all the school holidays, teen leadership training and, crucially, especially for Cayman’s at risk youth, an extended after school programme which serves up to 1,600 students from Cayman’s public schools. The core values of the Y are integrated into all the after-school activities and there is a focus on character development while children are looked after in a safe and nurturing environment.
Providing mentoring opportunities while teaching the importance of giving back, staying in school and having respect for others is what the Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) of the Cayman Islands have promoted since their founding in Cayman in 1995. Matching adult mentors (Bigs) with enrolled children (Littles) on a one-on-one basis, they offer children between the ages of 6 and 18 years, who are growing up with only one parent, being raised by relatives, or who have social and academic issues, someone they can confide in, share their concerns and learn how to manage life’s ups and downs. Programmes like Boyz 2 Men, the YMCA and BBBS KY (to name a few) are exposing at-risk children to healthy relationships which they can then model, and offering them the tools they need to make empowering life decisions.
Mr. Myles, like Dr. Walton, believes that many of the issues that Cayman’s youth face come down to parents not parenting their children properly, and communities not supporting each other the way they used to in the past. This feeds back into what Dr. Lam and Dr. Day are working on when they dig down to find the root cause of a child’s mental health issues.
At the end of the day, Mr. Myles wants to encourage a positive conversation surrounding mental health – offering the idea that clinicians should be removed from the face of campaigns, and instead encouraging conversation around individuals who are living great lives with mental illness. He believes we must “normalise mental illness just as we normalised cancer and heart disease”, to bring open communication, positivity and support to the mental health discussion.
There are many people who care, in Cayman, about our community and about our children. Hopefully, together, we can create a space where conversation about mental health flows freely and access to help is easy, so that adolescents in this generation and beyond feel empowered and ready to be insightful, productive and happy adults.
Teenagers often may not be able to tell you directly that they are depressed or suffering from mental ill-health. Here are some symptoms to look out for:
Of course, some of the above – such as sleeping too much – can just be a normal part of adolescence. The key is to keep your eyes open, listen to your gut and seek professional help quickly if you have any concerns.
There are a number of places on-Island where you can seek private and confidential help. These include:
Aspire Therapeutic Services Clinical psychologists and therapists
Unit A13, Crown Sq Plaza, Eastern Ave, George Town
Tel: (345) 743 6700 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Behavioral Health Associates Cayman (BHAC) Psychiatric practice
Unit B, Hospital Road Plaza, George Town
Tel: (345) 746 0066 Email: email@example.com
Cayman Islands Crisis Centre (CICC) Safe shelter for women
Tel: (345) 949 0366 24-hour Crisis Line: (345) 943 2422
Kids Helpline: (345) 649 5437 Toll Free: 1 (800) 534 2422
Cayman Islands Hospital Public hospital with a mental health unit
95 Hospital Road, George Town
Tel: (345) 949 8600
Hope Academy Clinical Services Clinical psychologists and therapists
Grand Harbour Shoppes, Red Bay
Tel: (345) 763 4673
Infinite Mindcare Counselling for children and adolescents
Centennial Towers & Britcay House
Tel: (345) 926 0882
KidsAbility Multidisciplinary paediatric therapy clinic
4 Smith Road, George Town
Tel: (345) 943 5437 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
OnCourse Cayman Private mental health clinic
Suite 130 Windward 1,
Regatta Office Park, George Town
Tel: (345) 745 6463 Email: email@example.com
Solutions Ltd. Counselling and family mediation
Suite W9, Grand Pavilion, 802 West Bay Rd
Tel: (345) 949 1327 www.solutionsltd.ky
The Counselling Centre − Department of Counselling Services
Free counselling for children or adults
Apollo House West, 87 Mary Street, George Town
Tel: (345) 949 8789 www.tcc.gov.ky
The Family Resource Centre − Department of Counselling Services
Free walk-in crisis intervention
Apollo House West, 87 Mary Street, George Town
Tel: (345) 949 0006 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Wellness Centre Clinical psychologists and therapists
D-5 Cayman Business Park, Elgin Avenue, George Town
Tel: (345) 949 9355 Email: email@example.com
Co-ordinating anti-drug measures in the Cayman Islands. The National Drug Council is an independent statutory body set up under the…
Boyz 2 Men began in 2009 after Christopher C. Murray, a school counsellor at John Gray High School, observed the…