Ministry reports rise in SEA self-harm cases

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

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