U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS –This week, the VI Department of Health’s Maternal Child Health Division (MCH) will hold its annual Children’s Mental Health Summit to dialogue and collaborate with a diverse group of key stakeholders on challenges and solutions for healthy development.

The summit begins Monday on St. Thomas with the engagement of pediatric providers and continues on Tuesday with Children’s Mental Health Training for MCH and VI Department of Health staff and its partners. This year’s theme is Nurturing Our Children’s Potential and Ambition.

“Children need to receive nurturing care to grow and develop optimally,” said Charmaine Mayers, Director of the Maternal Child Division. “This means that they enjoy adequate nutrition and good health, feel safe and secure and have opportunities for learning starting from birth.”

New to the summit this year is a teen presenter and a roundtable discussion with teens.

 “Young people’s good mental health is as important as their good physical health if they are to develop into independent and confident adults,” Director Mayers said. “Good mental health is an essential part of healthy adolescent development; it helps young people build positive social, emotional, thinking and communication skills and behaviors. It also lays the foundation for better mental health and wellbeing later in life.”

The week’s activities also include the second annual Father/Son Basketball Game set for 6 p.m. on Thursday at the UVI Sports & Fitness Center, and a Mental Health Awareness Concert which will be held on Friday, from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m., at Yacht Haven Grande. The events are free to the public.  

VI Health Commissioner Justa “Tita” Encarnacion is encouraging the St. Thomas community, especially parents of young children, to participate and support the basketball game and the summit’s concert finale. The commissioner also noted that “nurturing” is critical to a child’s positive quality of life.  

“Nurturing in all aspects – emotional, psychological, physiological and spiritual –, the whole child, is so important to bringing out the best in them,” she said. “This means giving them the right tools so that they can function well at home, in school, and in their communities.”

The Children’s Mental Health Summit will also be held on St. Croix the week of July 24th.