In the build-up to this year’s Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) examination, the Ministry of Education’s Student Support Services Division recorded a 20 per cent increase in the number of requests it received for help dealing with students with mental health issues, such as engaging in self-harm, self-mutilation, and attempted suicide.
So said Sule Dyer a senior school social worker in the St George East Education District during an empowerment workshop for students and parents held at the Aranguez North Secondary School on Monday.
“In the primary schools we saw an increase coming down to SEA, we had an increase in referrals and the number of schools that were calling asking for intervention from officers,” Dyer said.
“This basically says to me that they are unable to cope with what is going on,” he said. Dyer said increases were also recorded in the secondary schools.
This led the division initiating the empowerment workshops for students and parents, he said.
“We really wanted to take a proactive approach so that we could bring awareness to the schools and the children and the teachers,” he said. Next week teachers and principals are also expected to be part of a workshop to help them identify and treat with students exhibiting mental health issues, Dyer said. Yesterday’s workshop was titled “More addressing, Less Stressing” as a play on the name of a popular local song.
“The reason why we came up with the initiative is because the numbers have started increasing. There has been an increase in the number of referrals that we have coming in terms of suicide, self-harm, self-mutilation,” Dyer said.
Dyer said a student from Tacarigua Presbyterian had recently committed suicide.
“We recently lost a student at Tacarigua Presbyterian about a week ago who killed herself but that child would have been one of our clients, we have been trying to address the issue over a period of time,” he said. “The amount of students we have on the spectrum who are mutilating themselves, engaging in a lot of self-harm and a lot of maladaptive coping strategies because of that we saw it fit to do a programme for the district to help and aid with some of the preventative measures that we are trying to put in place,” he said.
The workshop was attended by students from the Aranguez North Secondary School as well as students from Hillview College and Barataria Secondary School.
Guidance Counsellor Royette Williams-James led the first session yesterday dealing with “Teen Mental Health; Overcoming the Stigma.”
Williams-James told the students that she was diagnosed with a mental health issue when she was 11 years old.
“So I know what it feels like to be living with a mental health problem for the past 30 plus years. I was diagnosed with a mental health illness in the second form,” she said.
“Mental health is extremely serious and it is a public health concern,” Williams-James said.
Williams-James said over 350,000 people in this country have mental health issues.
She said one in six between the ages 10-19 have or will have a serious mental issue. Williams-James told the children ways to identify mental health and gave them coping mechanisms to deal with it.
The children were also handed fliers addressing issues of depression, bipolar disorder, self-harm, and panic disorder.
Reporter: Joel Julien