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3rd Annual Youth Mental Health Symposium recap

3rd Annual Youth Mental Health Symposium recap

The Alex Panton Foundation’s 3rd Annual Youth Mental Health Symposium took place on Saturday 22nd February at the Ritz-Carlton grand Cayman. The free event saw a wonderful turnout with approximately 300 persons in attendance including special guests such as His Excellency Martyn Roper, OBE and Hon. Dwayne Seymour, JP, MLA.  Our theme this year was Empowering Youth, Inspiring Hope, which really followed our initiatives this year such as our Youth Ambassador programme, a programme designed to not only empower youth, but to prepare them to be leaders in the community.

Registration opened at noon, giving the chance for attendees to view some of the many exhibition booths such as Aspire, Hope Academy, the Wellness Centre, the HSA and many more. Exhibition booths offered valuable information, leaflets as well as some freebees for guests to take.

The Symposium began at 1pm with opening remarks from Jane Panton, Chairperson of the Alex Panton Foundation, who shared some of the initiatives and programmes that the Alex Panton Foundation have put into motion over the last year. His Excellency Martyn Roper, was also invited to give opening remarks and spoke about the importance of mental health in a small country like the Cayman Islands. He also voiced his support for the Foundation and our cause.

Hon. Dwayne Seymour, Minister of Health, Environment, Culture and Housing gave a heart-warming speech about his own experiences with mental health in his family. This was his third time attending the annual event, as well as his third time being invited to speak. Having government support is incredibly important for the goals of the foundation.

Perhaps one of the most moving and impactful moments of the day was the Youth Ambassador Panel. This was our first time holding a panel for young people, and we could not have been more impressed by their words. The panel was moderated by Bill LaMonte, National Board Science Teacher and Dr Colleen Brown from OnCourse Cayman gave the questions. The panel was represented by four young, intelligent students of varying ages from different schools. Each were asked questions and gave moving answers and insight on mental health, how to cope, what causes anxiety and depression, and even advice for parents whose children are suffering.

After the youth panel, Miss Cayman Islands World 2019, Jaci Patrick, was invited to speak. She spoke about her own experiences with mental health, how she sought treatment to manage her anxiety, and how it was important for her to choose the Alex Panton Foundation and mental health as her “Beauty with a Purpose”.

Next up was our international guest speaker, Kevin Ashworth, Co-Founder and Clinical Director of the NW Anxiety Institute. Ashworth spoke about the differences between mental illness and sadness, how to identify it in young people and the benefits of “facing your fears” with exposure therapy. We were incredibly honoured to have him share his expertise with us as a community.

After the coffee break, where guests were able to visit more exhibitor booths, the audience was invited back in to hear about one of our other important initiatives launched this year, our Social Emotional Literacy Programmes, Zippy’s Friends and Apple’s Friends, presented by the programme leads Dr Catherine Day and Dr Xenia Sotitriou. The ladies were able to explain in depth what the programmes are and how it has already impacted schools in the Cayman Islands who have implemented the programme.

The last presenter was another familiar face. Dr Marc Lockhart has been invited to attend and speak each year, and it was an honour to have him return. Dr Lockhart’s presentation on the 5 Myths about Youth Mental Health was incredibly impactful. As Alex’s doctor, we appreciate and respect his contribution each year to our annual Symposium.

Closing remarks were given by Deputy Chairperson of the Alex Panton Foundation, Hailee Robinson, who spoke about upcoming initiatives and programmes, and thanked our guests, sponsors, exhibitors and speakers. We are blown away by the ongoing support from our community and thank each and every one of you who were able to attend our event. We hope to see you next year.