Sports program launched to tackle mental issues in youth
The Can Bou Play Foundation and Mindology Trinidad have teamed up to launch the Sport In Mind – Mental Health Program which ushers in a new era on how mental health is approached in Trinidad and Tobago.
The program also shows how sport can operate as a great tool to tackle various mental challenges and the stigma attached to the mental health discussion.
Alexandria Olton of Mindology Trinidad, a sport psychological practice, needed little convincing in partnering with Can Bou Play for this initiative and believes that in the face of mounting societal pressures, youth can find a healthy tonic from sport, especially when it's guided.
“Sport for me was always an escape from the stresses of my academic and work-life. A solace, a mental break that provided a sense of fulfillment and belonging,” said Olton.
"The Sport In Mind Program aims to provide the very solace and escape I found within my own sporting career, to the young people of our society today.”
Sport In Mind will run every Wednesday from 4 to 6 pm at the Ultimate Indoor Facility, Aranguez, to provide a safe and welcoming space for adolescents to participate in a multitude of sports, primarily football, with highly qualified technical coaches provided by the Can Bou Play Foundation, and engage in one to one and group discussions, workshops and idea-sharing spaces with Olton.
The target demographic of the program is adolescents aged 15 years and older and is free to participants.
“The impact sport and exercise can have on one’s mental wellbeing is so beneficial that the Royal College of Psychiatrists recognised exercise prescription as a form of treatment for a wide range of mental health conditions," said Olton.
In 2012, then Minister of Health revealed that one in four people in our society is suffering from mental illness. Furthermore, it was stated, 21.5 percent of students admitted to feeling sad or hopeless almost every day to the extent that they stopped participating in their usual activities.
Trinidad and Tobago reportedly has the third-highest suicide rate in the region and more suicides per 100,000 people than even the United States.
Feature speaker at the launch, President of the T&T Association of Psychologists, Dr Margaret Nakhid-Chatoor, echoed Olton’s sentiments and was extremely pleased with the approach taken by the Sport In Mind team to remedy these pervasive issues.
“The Trinidad and Tobago Association for Psychologists welcomes this initiative, Sport In Mind,” she said.
“If you don’t know it, mental illness in the young people in Trinidad and Tobago, the rates between the ages of 14 to 29 are increasing. Earlier this year, so far in the schools, we have on record, more than 24 students that have died by suicide not only in secondary schools but in the primary schools.“
“Mental health and physical health are fundamentally linked. There are multiple associations between poor mental health and chronic physical conditions… so we are hoping that S.I.M. would be able to offer a refuge, which is a safe space to rebuild oneself, for those in schools and others. “
The Sport In Mind Program will run for an initial five-month period from September 2019 to January 2020 with students from the San Juan/Barataria/Aranguez catchment area as well as a contingent from the Tableland Sports Club, though more participants are welcomed.
Can Bou Play CEO Amiel Mohammed urged more collaboration between sporting, governmental and corporate agencies to allow for programs such as Sport In Mind to flourish.
“We can’t keep operating in silos. Through true and honest collaboration we could really make a difference. The puzzle that I invited everyone to assemble here today represents just that. Everyone has their own unique piece to add to the larger puzzle to make it great.”
“Can Bou Play is truly proud of our collaboration with Mindology and having great partnerships with Creamery Novelties (Hadco), Dairy Distributors Limited, Republic Bank, Agility Sports, HD Media and of course the Ultimate Indoor Facility for Sport In Mind.”
“Everything is a cycle. When our founders and coaches come to the S.I.M. sessions they are also going to learn from Alexandria and that would only improve their skillsets to be used when they then go out to our outreaches in communities, schools, differently-abled institutes etc,” Mohammed concluded.
Those interested in joining the Sport In Mind sessions or partnering with the “only program of its kind at the developmental level of youth sport in Trinidad” as Olton describes it, can contact Can Bou Play Foundation or Mindology at their respective social media pages or visit the Ultimate Indoor Facility.