Men who are secretly struggling with stress, depression or other issues affecting mental health can reach out to the Rotary Club of Port-of-Spain West. Recently-elected President of the Club, Sonya Phillip and her team are partnering with mental health experts to help troubled males work out their problems through CALM.
A three-part project, CALM will build on the mental health theme started under the previous president, Veronica De Souza-Phillip, in 2018. In its first initiative, the Port-of-Spain West Club has started refurbishing Ward 1 of the St Ann’s Hospital via a grant from the Digicel Foundation, Phillip informed Guardian Media recently.
The project’s second phase, “Man Talk”, was expected to be launched from October 10 to coincide with World Mental Health Day. According to Phillip, “Man Talk” aims to create a safe space where men of all ages can speak up about issues affecting them and will take the form of taped interviews, videos and panel discussions over social media platforms, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. Men can sign up on Facebook@rotaryposwest, IG@ rotaryposwest or email email@example.com to participate.
Phillip said that arising out of the forum, participants and men in general who felt they needed one-on-one advice from psychologists, therapists ecould tap into part three of the project, the Mental Health Time Raiser. A twist on a traditional fundraiser which may not be feasible given the economic effect of COVID-19, the Time Raiser initiative asks professionals to pledge eight hours of their time for the next eight months to assist males in crisis.
Phillip, who is also the vice-principal (Ag) of the Diego Martin North Secondary School, said the club consulted well-known psychiatrist and sports coach, Dr Ian Hypolite and medical director of the St Ann's Psychiatric Hospital, Dr Samuel Shafe, after deciding to make men their focus.
“Coming out of our mental health project in 2018 which taught teachers, guidance counsellors, parents and other stakeholders in education how to recognise suicidal tendencies in teenagers, and being in a position where you have charge over young men and women, you see a need to guide the way in which they think and operate in society.
“We also saw so many disturbing articles coming out in the media where women were being attacked and found no emphasis was being placed on the mental health of men,” Phillip explained.
Phillip became the third female president of the Port-of-Spain West Club since it was first established in 1976, after Vindra Amar and Veronica De Souza-Phillip. Her term started on July 1 this year and will run until June 30, 2021. Pointing out that the Rotary usually attracted business-oriented people and professionals who wanted to give back to their community, Phillip said there was no shortage of women involved in Rotary. Noting that “as a woman in 2020 you have to be innovative, strong and someone on whom others can depend,” she said clubs had no problem ensuring the equitable distribution of leadership among males and females.
Phillip said her involvement in Rotary was a natural progression as she was raised in Diego Martin in a loving family and was always surrounded by relatives who felt a desire to help others.
The holder of a BA in History and Communication Studies, a Diploma in Education and a Masters in Educational Literacy, Phillip began her Rotary career at the age of 22 when she joined the Rotaract–the youth arm of Rotary consisting of 18 to 30-year-olds–after being invited by a friend. She saip since then she has been exposed to like-minded people the world over.
“The Rotary family opened up the world to me. I was able to see that many people throughout the world, the Caribbean, Trinidad and Tobago are so keen on serving and giving back to their communities. It’s something we should really build on as a nation.”
As a Rotaractarian, she helped refurbish the downtown museum on South Quay through a government grant and went on to serve as president of the Rotaract Club of Port-of-Spain West for ten years.
Within the last three years Phillip has participated in her Rotary Club’s Care Outreach Programme of Education (COPE) project which helped train health workers of the NWRHA and parents with autistic children to identify and deal with autism.
Telethon 2020 in May, which gained donations for ten societies, and hamper distributions for the past six months, form part of the Club’s activities for this year.
Under Phillip’s leadership, seven years ago, many of her students became involved in the Port-of-Spain West branch of the Interact Club, which consists of junior members from ages 12 to 18. They launched the Each One Feed One project which continues to donate canned food items to the Diamond Vale community.
Phillip said the next venture of the Rotary Club of Port-of-Spain West will be GROW FIT, aimed at promoting the physical health of children, especially since they are stuck at home during COVID.
“I would like when others think about service they think about the Rotary and when they think about the Rotary, they think about the Rotary Club of Port-of-Spain West,” Phillip said.