Survey: One in three Cayman youth contemplates suicide

The results of the survey were released at a well-attended mental health symposium hosted by the Alex Panton Foundation at the Marriott resort last month. - Photo: Spencer Fordin

The Alex Panton Foundation has released data suggesting that a third of Cayman’s youth are thinking about self-harm and suicide.

According to the mental health component of 2018 Cayman Islands Student Drug Use survey, 34 percent of Cayman students reported that they had seriously considered attempting suicide. This is a 15-percent increase from the 2007 survey.

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The survey also stated that 28 percent of students reported they have engaged in self-harming behaviors, including cutting, hitting, scratching and burning. Students who reported self-harming were 17 times more likely to have attempted suicide, according to the report.

Some 54 percent of the students reported being bullied, and more than 67 percent of them reported carrying a weapon in the community or at school.

“This was reported higher than average in Cayman Brac and Bodden Town,” the Alex Panton Foundation stated. “Students who were bullied were 5.9 times more likely to have attempted suicide.”

Physical abuse was experienced by 17 percent of the surveyed students, with girls more likely to report this than boys, according to the foundation. Sexual abuse was reported by 10 percent of the students, the foundation added.

“Both physical and sexual abuse serve as a risk factor to attempted suicide, 4 and 6 times respectively,” stated the foundation, whose mission is to improve the mental health of children and young adults in the Cayman Islands.

Binge drinking was reported to have taken place among 20 percent of the students, and students who participated in this behavior were 1.5 times more likely to have attempted suicide, the Alex Panton Foundation stated.

On the brighter side, the foundation said 92 percent of the students surveyed understood what mental health is, with just over half the students acknowledging they were taught about mental health in school.

Dr. Erica Lam, the clinical and education committee member of the Alex Panton Foundation, said the recent survey results are crucial for knowing what’s going on in the Cayman community.

“Until now we have been relying on international data to keep us informed on mental health issues. While the international data is still valuable, we now have new localized data which for the first time allows us a more insightful analysis of issues affecting our youth,” she stated. “This new data will also assist in planning better youth mental health services in the future, that [are] tailored to the needs of our young people.”

Jane Panton, chair of the Alex Panton Foundation, in a press release detailing the survey findings, said the foundation had worked with the National Drug Council to help young people in the community dealing with mental health issues.

Speaking at a symposium last month to highlight mental health issues, Health Minister Dwayne Seymour said of the survey, “This is the first nationally representative data available in the Cayman Islands and it is vitally important to draw comparisons between the international data that we have previously relied upon and the recent findings – both in terms of the prevalence of youth mental health issues and the risk factors that lead to them.”

He said his ministry was in the process of conducting a needs assessment to identify current services available within the public and private sector and to highlight gaps which “need to be filled in future if we are to properly support our youth.”

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