As the third edition of Red Stripe’s ‘Responsibility Now’ townhall series drew to a close, the company’s Dianne Ashton-Smith, head of corporate affairs, took the stage to make one final announcement that blew audiences away.
The big reveal was a three-year, $12 million partnership between Red Stripe’s philanthropic arm, the Desnoes & Geddes (D&G) Foundation and RISE Life Management Services to build awareness about the risks and consequences of underage drinking through youth sensitisation sessions at summer camps and in schools.
The ‘Responsibility Now!’ event was held in partnership with the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ) and the International Alliance for Responsible Drinking (IARD) at Red Stripe’s Spanish Town Road brewery on Wednesday (June 7) under the theme Alcohol and Mental Health: Making Sense of the Relationship.
“Today’s town hall is a testament to Red Stripe’s dedication to addressing the harmful use of alcohol and creating awareness, and ensuring that we have a network of support. By bringing together experts, stakeholders and our community, we aim to leverage collective wisdom and expertise to drive positive change”, noted Ashton Smith as she addressed private sector partners, mental health industry specialists and other groups of stakeholders at the Town Hall.
The profoundly insightful Responsibility Now Town Hall featured a keynote presentation from the Director of Mental Health and Substance Abuse at the Ministry of Health and Wellness, Dr Kevin Goulbourne. His presentation was followed by an engaging and thought-provoking panel discussion by Counselor and Substance Abuse Specialist Sarah Templeton; Social Activist and Gender Specialist Carla Moore; Mental and Physical Health Advocate Patrice J White; Pier One Jamaica CEO Jason Russell and IARD Managing Director–US Office and SVP- Multilateral & Policy Analysis Virginia ‘Ginny’ Gidi. The panel was moderated by Dr Terri-Karelle Reid.
“Sometimes alcohol use may be related to an attempt to self-medicate to dim the symptoms of anxiety and depression. However, these effects are short-lived and could lead to increased frequency of using alcohol in larger quantities that, in turn, worsen anxiety or depressive disorder”, noted Dr Goulbourne as he began exploring the link between alcohol consumption and mental health in his keynote presentation.
Dr Goulbourne continued, “From the policy perspective, we know the importance of mitigating alcohol misuse, which is part of the basis for the National Alcohol Policy. The expected outcomes of this new policy include reduced alcohol-related crashes, morbidity and deaths from alcohol-related conditions, alcohol-related non-communicable diseases, and access and availability to minors. There can be no good health without good mental health. Therefore, we need to stop the stigma around mental health, provide more support, listen and aid persons in recovery. It is therefore heartening to see Red Stripe and the private sector take action on this issue.”
The D&G Foundation’s partnership with RISE Life Management Services represents the rebirth of ‘The Movement’, a programme first launched in 2016 to tackle underage drinking through theatre and other creative avenues. As part of ‘The Movement’, the partners will equip guidance counsellors, peer counsellors and school administrators with the skills to have meaningful classroom conversations and create a supportive environment where alcohol use is proactively and mindfully dissuaded.
The partnership was welcomed by RISE’s Executive Director Nadine Chambers-Goss who asserted, “We know that providing youngsters with information is what is needed to enable them to make the wholesome decision not to introduce alcohol into their lives too early. We will roll out this programme across the island because all Jamaican children have a right to be exposed to this information and we will make that happen thanks to the support of the D&G Foundation starting this summer.”
Further expounding on Red Stripe’s continued commitment to promoting responsible consumption, Ashton-Smith added, “For us, taking action is key; as we like to say in Jamaica, ‘action, not a bag a mout’. We believe that knowledge is power. Therefore, through our partnership with RISE Life Management Services, we can arm our youth with accurate information and a comprehensive understanding of the potential harm of alcohol we can empower them.”
‘Responsibility Now!’ partner the PSOJ was represented by president Metry Seaga who noted, “thank you to our valued member Red Stripe for yet another staging of the Responsibility Now Town Hall Series”.
“The PSOJ is proud to stand alongside you in your continued efforts to demonstrate the transformative power of the private sector in addressing societal issues. Alcohol and mental health have a complex relationship that deserves our attention. By bringing together experts, policy-makers and individuals with lived experienced, this town hall provides a platform for dialogue, knowledge-sharing and collective action. Together we can dismantle the stigma surrounding mental health, promote responsible drinking habit and ensure the availability of support for those who need it most.”