Mon | Dec 17, 2018

Youth councillors: Schools need targeted mental health scheme

Published:Friday | November 16, 2018 | 12:00 AMJodi-Ann Gilpin/Gleaner Writer
Danielle Jonas, junior councillor for the Allman Town division, addressing a mock sitting of the Junior Council at the Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation offices yesterday.

There are serious concerns about the high level of mental illness among youth, spurring a plea for targeted interventions in schools. This was the resolution put forward by Danielle Jonas, junior councillor for the Allman Town division, at a mock sitting of the Junior Council at the Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation offices yesterday.

Jonas argued that while each school has a guidance and counselling department that focuses on academic and emotional development, there is still a deficiency in educating teens about how to cope with the many issues they will face in life. This, she says, increases the possibility of teenagers having suicidal tendencies and displaying other negative behaviours.

"I have put forward the motion for mental health awareness in high schools due to its prevalence in our society and the stigma that it is met with. At some point, we have all heard or addressed an individual as a 'mad man' or a disruptive child as a 'bad-breed pickney'. These are just a few examples of how Jamaicans deal with mental health issues," said the St Andrew High School student.

"While the CPFSA (Child Protection and Family Services Agency) does offer a policy to address persons with mental health issues, it is mostly targeted towards wards of the State. It means that yes, the children in these homes are getting the attention they need, but what of children outside of these homes? Citizens like you and me?"

 

DEAL WITH ISSUES OF LIFE

 

Jonas said that it was imperative that staff at schools are trained to detect and provide assistance to students who struggle with mental health issues.

She was supported by Jean-Claude Walters Dunn, councillor for the Trafalgar division, who pointed to the need for students to be equipped to deal with problems that will arise in life.

"I believe the issue has been overlooked in schools, and this has a very negative impact on our students and society. They are not equipped with the knowledge and skills to deal with trauma in their lives, and as a result, they gravitate to violence, drugs, and some have suicidal tendencies," Walters said.

"You may ask, what will change if this resolution is implemented? It is an attempt to impart the knowledge needed to deal with these traumas of life."

jodi-ann.gilpin@gleanerjm.com