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Tufton encourages physical activity as a means of navigating stress

Published:Wednesday | June 7, 2023 | 12:59 AMAsha Wilks/Gleaner Writer
Minister of Health and Wellness Dr Christopher Tufton speaks with students at Denham Town High School in Kingston yesterday on ways to combat mental health issues. Tufton was speaking with students during yesterday’s leg of a mental health intervention p
Minister of Health and Wellness Dr Christopher Tufton speaks with students at Denham Town High School in Kingston yesterday on ways to combat mental health issues. Tufton was speaking with students during yesterday’s leg of a mental health intervention programme in schools that seeks to help students cope with daily challenges that they may come across.

HEALTH AND Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton is urging students to engage in physical activity and exercise as a means of navigating stressful situations.

Speaking at a mental wellness school intervention wrap session yesterday at Denham Town High School, Tufton said that a good way to deal with stress is to do simple exercises, such as walking, running, or swimming.

The Jamaica Moves in Schools Programme, which was launched in 2017, was developed to deal with obesity in children by promoting the incorporation of physical activity and exercise, and healthy eating habits within the nation’s schools.

Tufton said that the ministry would work with the school in helping to further promote the use of the programme.

During his interaction with the students, the minister displayed a stress ball, showing students that this was one of the many ways that he deals with stress in his daily life.

“This is a stress ball; this is my favourite friend. It’s soft, but it has a little muscle in it; in other words, it has a little firmness,” he detailed.

He continued that whenever he does not have anyone to speak to about his issues in that moment, he utilises the tiny object instead.

“Any time me under pressure, me take the stress ball and me squeeze the living daylight out of it and ... me transfer the negative energy inna di stress ball because I don’t have time for the negative energy,” Tufton said.

The wrap session comes ahead of the start of the summer holidays beginning in July, as the health ministry continues its promotion of mental wellness among the youth through wellness check-ins at several high schools in Jamaica.

Tufton explained that the purpose of his visit was to ensure that the students understood how important they are to society as the next generation. He encouraged the students to believe that they have the ability to fulfil their ambitions in life.

PERSONAL EXPERIENCE

“We have to ensure that you feel confident in yourself that you can do whatever you set your mind to; just as how I came from a family where I never had much, my mother alone grow me up, and I am now the minister of health today. I want you to understand that you can one day be the minister of health,” he said, drawing from his own life experiences as an example.

Tufton further told students that although it was possible to accomplish their dreams, this could only be done through being diligent.

“It’s possible, but it takes work; it’s possible, but you have to overcome ... obstacles, challenges, problems.”

Continuing, he stated: “Bad man don’t last too long, so you don’t need to prove say ya the badda man inna di room. What last more than anything else is what you put up here so (brain), education, the skill; and every single one of you have the ability to have a skill.”

Donovan Hunter, principal of the Kingston-based institution, informed The Gleaner that he is extremely grateful for the collaborative efforts of the ministries of Health and Wellness and that of Education and Youth for this well-needed intervention, especially as most of the students have special needs and were from lower socio-economic backgrounds.

“Intervention strategies to address the psychosocial and socio-emotional demands of the students were desperately needed at this time and therefore, the mental wellness school intervention programme was welcomed,” Hunter said, as it would help in the reduction of deviant behaviours.

Of the approximately 622-student population, 80 per cent of them are boys. The students, Hunter said, are reading below their grade levels and in some instances, below grade-one level. As such, to build the capacity of the students, the institution has engaged them in literary programmes since last term.

He stated that while they could not diagnose the students, he could recall one student who is suspected of being autistic.

The institution, Hunter said, is a part of the education ministry’s inter-ministerial 25/34 schools’ strategy.

“[This] has been helping us, so we would see small portions ... of improvements coming. But we are certain that maybe over [the next] three to five years, we shall see a transformation of our institution in terms of our students’ behaviour,” he said.

asha.wilks@gleanerjm.com