In an effort to address the critical issue of student mental health, the College of Science, Technology and Applied Arts of Trinidad and Tobago (COSTAATT) teamed up with Morgan State University, USA, and University of Westminster, UK, to host an inspiring mini-symposium titled “Student Mental Health: An International Perspective.” The event, which took place on June 14, 2023, brought together participants from various countries through a hybrid format, merging in-person attendance at the COSTAATT Chaguanas campus auditorium with online participation via Zoom.
The mini-symposium aimed to promote collaboration and exchange of knowledge on student mental health issues across borders and to recognize the significance of addressing this pressing issue. Dr. Keith Nurse, President of COSTAATT, delivered greetings at the event. He emphasized the importance of paying close attention to the mental well-being of students and the value of international partnerships in finding collective solutions.
A pivotal moment at the event was the feature presentation by Dr. Michelle A. Harris, Advisor on Non-communicable Diseases and Mental Health at the Pan-American Health Organisation (PAHO). Drawing on PAHO’s Qualitative Study on Youth & COVID-19 in Trinidad and Tobago, Dr. Harris offered critical data and insights into the mental health challenges experienced by youth, particularly considering the recent pandemic. She also encouraged those present to utilize an online crisis support directory “Find Care” (www.findcarett.com) to understand and to learn how to improve responses to mental health issues.
The symposium also included an expert panel made up of students and alumni from Morgan State University, University of Westminster, and COSTAATT, as well as subject area experts. Esteemed panelists included Dr. Charlene Chester, Assistant Dean at Morgan State University; Dr. Sonya Clyburn, Director of Counselling Services at Morgan State University; Dr. Greg Aasen, Lecturer at University of Westminster; Ms. Nicole Wills, Senior Lecturer at COSTAATT; Ms. Ayanna Bertrand-Charles, Senior Lecturer at COSTAATT; and Mr. Jamal Glynn, Music Therapist at the NWRHA.
The panel discussions generated meaningful conversations and shed light on various aspects of student mental health such as those related to family, online learning, unemployment, culture, and religion. Experts and students shared their feelings, experiences, insights, and strategies to address mental health challenges faced by students in different educational contexts.
The symposium aimed to encourage a global dialogue and promote innovative solutions for the betterment of student mental health. One such solution came in the form of the online application “Uplift”, which was presented at the conclusion of the event. Developed by COSTAATT alumni, Shanice Dick, Ishmael Moreno and Kafra Morris, “Uplift” is a digital peer-to-peer mental health app designed to create a supportive and interactive space for students to connect anonymously with their peers.
The COSTAATT “Student Mental Health: An International Perspective” mini-symposium provided a platform for experts, researchers, and students from Trinidad and Tobago, the United States, and the United Kingdom to collaborate, share insights, and develop effective strategies to address the mental health challenges faced by students globally. This event marks another one of the many steps that COSTAATT is taking toward creating awareness, fostering international partnerships, and implementing meaningful solutions to support the mental well-being of our students.