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Here we are: October 10, World Mental Health Day 2020. Divine intervention, I thought, because it fell at the end of the week in which our 2020-2021 national budget was presented. I waited, holding my breath in anticipation. Then I had to tell myself: “Breathe, Maria, Breathe.” I got a list of the key takeaways from the budget, and there were thirteen (13) key takeaways, with the Ministry of Health being third on the list of the recipients. National Security and Education were the top two in the breakdown of the national budget.

The theme for World Mental Health Day 2020 is “Mental Health for All – Greater Investment, Greater Access, Every One, Everywhere.” The President of the World Federation of Mental Health (WFMH) paints a bleak global picture. She comments on the surveys WHO did between 2001, 2012 and 2018: 450 million people live with mental disorders and it is the leading cause of ill-health and disability world-wide.

One in four persons will be affected by a mental health disorder at some stage in their lives, while mental, neurological and substance use disorders exact a high toll on health outcomes—accounting for 13 per cent of total global burden of disease. In 2018, WHO stated that every 40 secs someone dies by suicide. While 79 per cent of global suicides occur in low and middle income countries.

T&T is third in the region, after Guyana (44.2) and Suriname (27.8). Overall, T&T ranks at number 41 out of 170 countries, with more suicides per 100,000 people than even the United States, which ranks at 50. T&T’s suicide rate has increased in recent years, and many cases have been attributed to failed relationships and family issues.

Economic problems have also been a contributing factor, according to Professor Gerard Hutchinson, Head of Clinical Medical Sciences at the University of the West Indies. The most common method of suicide, according to Hutchinson, is poisoning using deadly pesticides such as gramoxone.

Our situation in my beloved country is bleak. Persons still have to wait months for service. They call and call for help and phones are not answered. Now we have the freezing of all vacancies in the public service for a year. All members of graduating classes of 2020 will be impacted.

I know that we will have to help them to take deep breaths and use relaxation techniques and positive thoughts, when anxiety, frustration, intense fear emanating from thoughts of helplessness, overwhelm them. Our Mental Health Services will be even more burdened than they already are and not one billion of the many billions was prioritized for our Mental Health Services.

Dear Graduating Class of 2020, please send out as many resumes as you can. Search all possible websites, if at home is not available then search foreign. Remember that the world is working on-line and being paid is not a problem.

A very ambitious student applied to a foreign university to do her Masters after her first degree at UTT. She was accepted and in spite of the rain, she is seeing her future very clearly. There are students helping small groups of children with their on-line classes in their communities.

Parents who need help, this is how you can help when you have to go to work. You can support the graduate by working out a stipend for their time and help. Information is also available on WhatsApp. Friends share with friends, supporting each other. Respond to what is relevant to your skills.

A young lady did that and got a response from UNICEF and she got a three-month contract to work on a project. Her name is now on their radar. I know as millennials, you have high expectations of us and those who lead you. You will have to lower those expectations while in this depressed economy.

Peter Drucker, a Management Expert tells us: “The best way to predict the future is to create it”. Believe you me. It works. Get help if you need to shake off that helpless, stuck feeling and begin to create and chart your own future. The Future is Yours.

Counselling Psychologist