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