Mental health advocates and industry experts gathered at the third Red Stripe’s Responsibility Now! Town Hall this past Wednesday (June 7) for a thought-provoking panel discussion on the relationship between alcohol and mental health.
The event, hosted in partnership with the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ) and the International Alliance for Responsible Drinking (IARD), aimed to address the stigma associated with mental health and encourage support for those in need.
Carla Moore, a prominent mental health advocate, emphasised the need to release the shame associated with mental health struggles. During the riveting panel discussion, Moore stated, “We have been socialised to judge people struggling with mental health because we feel it is a sign that they are weak. We ought to release the shame associated with it so those who need support can get support.”
The panel consisted of Transformative Health and Wellness Coach Patrice J. White, Counsellor and Substance Abuse Specialist Dr Sarah Templeton, CEO of Pier 1 Montego Bay Jason Russell, and IARD Managing Director–US Office and SVP-Multilateral & Policy Analysis Dr Virginia ‘Ginny’ Gidi. The keynote address was delivered by Dr Kevin Goulbourne, the Director of Mental Health and Substance Abuse at the Ministry of Health and Wellness.
Dr Virginia Gidi acknowledged the significant impact of the partnership between IARD and leading global alcohol producers like Red Stripe’s parent company, HEINEKEN, in addressing the consequences of alcohol misuse. She highlighted the mission of IARD, stating, “Our mission is to get leaders of various companies to embrace the approach of recognising the harmful use of alcohol. We also want to highlight the crucial role of the private sector, which has a responsibility to consumers and families, communities, and the wider society.”
Dr Sarah Templeton, drawing from her experience working on the front lines of addiction and mental health challenges, emphasised the interconnectedness of substance abuse and mental health issues. She noted, “In my experience, substance abuse challenges almost always premeditate the mental health issues. I have realised that patients choose the substance that helps their mental health issues. With that in mind, if we don’t address someone’s substance use, it’s difficult to unmask and treat their mental health issues.”
The panel discussion delved into various topics, including alcohol as a coping mechanism for underlying mental health issues, prevention and treatment of substance abuse, and the importance of promoting responsible drinking. Jason Russell, CEO of Pier 1 Montego Bay, highlighted the role of bars in the collective discussion, stating, “The bar is really meant to be a place for enjoyment and fellowship, but we see where it can become a catalyst for substance abuse.
There is a much lighter side of alcohol, where you can drink responsibly with friends and chat about your life experiences. As bar owners, we try to highlight that aspect, but it’s also important for us not to disregard the issue of alcohol abuse and ways we can contribute to preventing or combating that.”
Patrice J. White, a transformative health and wellness coach, shared her personal journey with mental health challenges and emphasised the importance of seeking professional help. White revealed, “I struggle with clinical depression, and I have tried to commit suicide several times between 2017 and the present. Because of this, if you are experiencing any form of mental health challenge, the first thing you should do is accept that you need help and support. Running, exercising, and consuming alcohol are not health therapy. While healthy habits assist the therapy, it is not all you need. You need professional help so that healthy habits will complement therapeutic treats, and you can start your journey to true transformation and healing.”
Carla Moore echoed the need for self-reflection to identify whether alcohol intake is linked to deeper mental health issues. She urged individuals to ask themselves, “What do I need?” Moore stressed the importance of peeling away the layers and connecting with oneself to understand the underlying reasons for using alcohol as a coping mechanism. She warned, “If not, you will be drinking forever.”
The event concluded with the announcement of a groundbreaking partnership between Red Stripe’s philanthropic arm, the Desnoes & Geddes (D&G) Foundation, and RISE Life Management Services. The $12 million partnership aims to build awareness about the risks and consequences of underage drinking through youth sensitisation sessions at summer camps and in schools.