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Tufton: Parents must have their own ‘safe space’ for mental wellness


Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton is urging parents to remember that they should care for their own mental health by creating ‘safe spaces’ for themselves to relieve their stress, even as they help their children to manage their mental health, as well.

Tufton made the recommendation yesterday while addressing a mental wellness parenting seminar at the Jewel Grande Montego Bay Resort and Spa in Rose Hall, St James. The seminar was held to provide 50 participating parents with the resources to bolster their parenting skills and improve the mental development of their children.

“We say to young people, ‘Find your safe space, whatever that safe space is’, and we help them to define that safe space, which is where you can go to seek refuge, your downtime, the place for self-care, or maybe someone you trust, such as your pastor, teacher, guidance counsellor, mother or father. But I believe that even before you start to give them support and identify the safe space, you need to understand that you need one too,” Tufton told the parents.

“Sometimes we are very tempted to focus on the stresses that we face, and oftentimes we ignore our responsibility to those who are looking to us for guidance, protection and support. Good parenting starts with a sense of self-awareness as a parent as to what our role and responsibilities are, and you cannot carry out that role when, while addressing the problem you are trying to solve, you yourself have that problem and do not know how to solve it,” Tufton added.

The minister noted that, in order to help their children find a balance for their mental wellness, parents must reassure their children that they can come to them and trust them.

“The ability of a parent or guardian to sit and have a talk with your child is a major intervention that is positive for the child. It is important for the child to understand that they trust you enough to sit and talk with you,” said Tufton.

“You cannot shout things out of them, or worse, beat things out of them. You have to guide them in a [specific] direction, and that more often than not takes reasoning, conversation and encouragement rather than deprivation or abuse,” Tufton stressed.

Friday’s seminar was part of an ongoing mental health literacy programme by the Ministry of Health and Wellness, which includes going into schools across Jamaica to give students support systems and coping mechanisms for mental health issues such as depression and the effects of bullying.

The programme, which has been rolled out in seven schools since the programme started in June, includes a ‘Do Your Share Wellness Bench’ activity, where students select a designated bench which is symbolic of finding a safe space to restore one’s mental wellness.