Mon | Jul 23, 2018

Multi-million dollar madness - Failure to address mental health issues in children could cost Government dearly, says specialist

Published:Tuesday | April 11, 2017 | 12:59 AMPaul Clarke

Failure to address mental health issues in children could end up costing the Government millions of dollars in providing legal and other corrective measures if nothing is done to address the problem, asserts special educator Ruthlyn James, director at Adonijah Group of Schools for Intellectual Disabilities.

James pointed out that there was a correlation between mental-health issues in children and the number of adults in the island’s penal system committing suicide, as well as the nationally high murder rate.

“Millions of dollars will have to be found to deal with this ultimately. As it is now, not enough is being done, and many children become adults and still go untreated, which plays out in some becoming very aggressive and some end up being incarcerated for serious crimes,” she told The Gleaner.

She said the Government should create safe havens for children suffering from any mental-health issues or face the prospects of a nation overwhelmed with the ripple effects.


According to the special educator, some behavioural patterns in children are dismissed but a deeper look shows that a child could be suffering from a range of serious mental disorders.

“While we quickly identify some cognitive disorder in children, there are others that go unnoticed and untreated that are quite serious,” said James.

“Where are the safe havens for our people who suffer from the various forms of mental disability? Too many of us believe that it’s only the persons eating from garbage bins who suffer a mental disorder.”

She continued, “It is also true that children who go untreated oftentimes go through life untreated as adults. This is the sad reality, but many of our children have mental issues and parents are not aware because we tend to zoom in on autism, for example, while ignoring other factors.

“Real anger, resulting in a child killing another child, must not be seen only as murder. The mental aspect of that child must be gauged. How do we do that unless there are enough facilities and trained personnel to study these scenarios?” asked James.


Number of visits to public mental-health clinics because of mental illness by region ­ 2015

DIAGNOSIS    SERHA               SRHA               NERHA               WRHA        TOTAL


Psychosis              20,173                19,378             12,540               31,347           83,438


Mood Disorder      3,813                  3,363               3,458                  4,515            15,449

Substance Misuse   572                      548                  214                     292             1,627


Adolescent Disorder   188                  181                  1,848                  304            2,521

PTSD                            52                        50                    155                112             379


Mental Disorder        675                      648                  640                     658         2,621

Other                           40                        38                    1,104                  620       1,802

TOTAL                  25,513                24,587             19,969               37,848      107,837




Emergency and crisis calls due to acute mental illness and response in Kingston and St Andrew

YEAR       Crisis Calls    Face-To-Face Response     Response via Phone

2015             1,285                          916                                     369

2014             1,538                          1,093                                  445

2013             1,600                          1,195                                  405