UNICEF gives youth platform to speak to policymakers about mental health

31 October 2023
Youth meet with Minister of Education
Hon Fayval Williams, Minister of Education and Youth (right) greets Aeryn Bernard, NSSC Region 1 PRO/Secretary; while (from left to right) Shawnalee Williams, NSSC PRO (partially hidden); Mohammad Mohiuddin, UNICEF Deputy Representative; Alana Powell, General Secretary, Jamaica Prefects’ Association; and Nathan Davis, U-Report Youth Council Member and Youth Entrepreneur look on.

KINGSTON, 18 October 2023 – More than 100 young people spoke up about their mental health to policy makers and civil society groups when they converged at the National Youth Mental Health Summit on October 11 and 12.

UNICEF, in collaboration with the Jamaica Youth Advocacy Network (JYAN) and the Ministry of Health and Wellness (MOHW) brought the groups together so that there could be open and authentic discussions on youth perceptions and recommendations on mental health. Participants heard research findings from Clinical Psychologist, Dr Kai Morgan, who was commissioned by UNICEF to conduct a desk review of data as well as focus group discussions with young people from across Jamaica.

Olga Isaza, UNICEF Representative addresses the opening of the National Youth Mental Health Summit
Olga Isaza, UNICEF Representative addresses the opening of the National Youth Mental Health Summit on October 11 at the AC Hotel in Kingston.

Speaking on the first day of the Summit, Olga Isaza, UNICEF Representative said, “We are working to support the country to formulate a policy that will be evidence-based and will take into account the youth voices.”

Pledging their commitment to the process, the Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr Christopher Tufton and the Minister of Education and Youth, Hon. Fayval Williams, said they were working together to outline a roadmap that will guide the path to policy formulation for improved coordination between their ministries.

Marsha Smith, Minister of State in the Ministry of Education and Dr Judith Leiba have a panel discussion about mental health
Hon Marsha Smith (centre), Minister of State in the Ministry of Education and Youth listens intently while Dr Judith Leiba, Director, Child and Adolescent Mental Health in the Ministry of Health and Wellness speaks passionately about the services that the ministry is offering while advocating for improved child and adolescent mental health services. Novia Condell, Health Specialist, UNICEF looks on.

Among the key recommendations that came from the students and other youth-led organisations were: Improved coordination and better quality in delivery of mental health services; updated legislative and policy framework that leads to more efficient service delivery; building the capacity of parents, educators, and other duty bearers to support child and adolescent mental health and addressing stigma, discrimination and gender norms that are barriers to access.

“I was impressed at the depth of the discussions that the young people brought to the table,” said Novia Condell, Health Specialist, UNICEF. “This is definitely a priority for them.”

“UNICEF will continue to stand beside the Government of Jamaica and other stakeholders to ensure that children and young people have improved access to quality health services,” Mohammad Mohiuddin, Deputy Representative emphasized on the last day of the Summit.

Media contacts

Donna-Marie Rowe
Communication Specialist
Tel: ‭+1 (876) 279-8339‬


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