The Alex Panton Foundation held its third annual Youth Mental Health Symposium Saturday at The Ritz-Carlton to not only address mental health issues and stigmas on island, but also to find ways to combat them.

In his presentation, Dr. Marc Lockhart, psychiatrist at the Health Services Authority, said one in five young people in the Cayman Islands have mental health problems and 79% of those cases get the necessary help.

He also said eight young people have attempted suicide this year and while he stresses that’s not cause for alarm, that number does show an overall upward trend in the number of youth attempting to take their own lives.

“One of the reasons Cayman isn’t seeing the high numbers like we see in jurisdictions like the US and the UK is because we don’t have access to firearms,” Lockhart said.

He said the numbers are based on reports from the HSA, which don’t include those made to private practitioners.

Lockhart said that empowering our youth comes through proper education and finding the facts when it comes to breaking the stigma over mental health issues.

“Breaking down the stigma brings more people to get help and I’m really pleased with the approach the Alex Panton Foundation has been doing for the last three years in empowering our youth with the right information,” Lockhart said.

Leanni Tibbetts attended the event and said she was shocked to find out that suicide was still a crime within the Cayman Islands, which means that insurance companies do not cover hospitalisation fees due to suicide attempts.

“Mental illness is one of the highest forms of illnesses, yet it is the most unexplored and can lead to many forms of physical illnesses,” Tibbetts said.

Tibbetts said Lockhart spoke on how young people are dealing with their environment being destroyed and the school system becoming more competitive, and there is an overload of facts due to the ‘information age’. He added that parents cannot begin to fathom what this generation is experiencing.

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