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Addison Kelly Memorial Scholarship Fund’s Name Changed to Expand its Focus and Reach in the Community

Addison Kelly Memorial Scholarship Fund’s Name Changed to Expand its Focus and Reach in the Community

The name of the Addison Kelly Memorial Scholarship Fund has been changed to the Addison Kelly Mental Health Education Fund (AKMHEF) so that Addison’s family and the Alex Panton Foundation (APF) – which administers the fund – can expand the initiative’s focus and reach in the community.

After Addison lost her life to suicide in February 2022 at the age of 16, her parents and older sisters set out to find a way to honour their daughter and sister. They decided on the establishment of a scholarship in her name which would help Caymanians pursue further education in the mental health field. It was something Addison was passionate about and wanted to do. The fund was created in 2022, and the first scholarship was awarded in 2023 to Jamara Bodden who is working toward an online master’s degree in psychology and neuroscience of mental health, after which she will begin a PhD programme in the UK. The next scholarship will be awarded in 2025.

Two years on, Addi’s family has seen the increased need in the community for more mental health education and awareness. They have also grieved in a way only those with an intimate knowledge of youth suicide can, when they hear about the other young Caymanians who have lost their lives tragically. As a result, their desire and motivation to do more in the community in Addi’s name, has both deepened and strengthened.

“There were so many people that crossed paths with Addi who we know helped her, and there are so many who wish they could have done more. People in our community are struggling with their mental health; their friends, family members, coworkers, pastors and teachers do not feel they have the necessary tools to help or the right words to say. It became obvious to us that we need to give them those skills so they can know how to respond when they see someone they know and love going through mental health challenges and/or when that person reaches out to them for help and comfort,” said Rhonda Kelly, Addison’s mother.

The first community programme on which the fund will focus is mental health first aid (MHFA) training. Similar to CPR training, this MHFA course is being offered to anyone who wants to know how to help someone who is experiencing a mental health crisis. The curriculum consists of a 10 hour in-person class with additional time spent on completing online modules. Facilitated by local certified mental health first aid responder, Hylton Grace, the first workshop was recently held and completed by 15 persons.

Ms. Kelly said the MHFA training is just the first step in what is a long-term goal to MHFA-train every person in the community who works with Cayman’s young people.

“We are also in the process of applying to MHFA International to have the Cayman Islands become a licensed MHFA provider. This accreditation will allow us to create collateral that resonates with our youth and is relevant to our culture as well as increase the number of local trainers and ensure individuals can easily renew their certification every three years,” she explained.

In the meantime, while awaiting the international licensure, the AKMHEF will continue to provide free mental health first aid training. Sixty residents will be trained before the end of the year and the course is open to anyone who has an interest and is willing to make the time commitment.

“As a teacher who works with students daily, I am aware of the mental health concerns facing our youth.  I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to complete the Mental Health First Aid training as it has given me an understanding of mental health illnesses such as anxiety and depression as well as the skills to provide appropriate intervention,” said Renate Dowell, English as a Second Language Specialist at Clifton Hunter High School.

“We have been so blessed by the support Addi’s memorial fund has received. We want to ensure that every penny we receive is used in the best way possible to help the most people possible. We feel this is it,” said Ms. Kelly.

The next mental health first aid training is being held in July and is already full but future dates are 14 and 15 September and 19 and 20 October. Anyone who would like to be added to the list for consideration can email with details about where they work and why they would like to be included in the training.