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Pay attention to behavioural changes in your children, says psychiatrist

Published:Monday | July 10, 2017 | 12:00 AMJason Cross
Dr E. Anthony Allen

One of the island's long-practising psychiatrists, Dr E Anthony Allen, has suggested that there is a local shortage of psychiatric professionals who, he believes, are crucial to preventing young people from taking their own lives.

Allen was speaking with The Gleaner yesterday on the heels of an incident over the weekend, in which an 11-year-old boy was reported to have committed suicide in Admiral Town, St Andrew.

"There needs to be more public education about the features of mental health and behavioural problems. Second, there needs to be more access to child psychiatrists and more assistance in parenting. (However) when these things happen, we should not be quick to blame anyone, because mental health is a respecter of no one," he said.




He highlighted that when persons contemplate such acts as suicide, they are usually suffering from depression.

Allen therefore recommended that parents closely monitor their children to ensure that nothing is out of place where their general behaviour is concerned.

"It is important that parents maintain regular contact with children, meaning they should talk to them every day to find out what is happening at school and what is happening in their lives. Find out if there are any problems on their minds or if there is anything they are happy or unhappy about. Keep in touch with what is happening in that child's mind and life, both positive and negative, so that if there is anything that is happening and the child is depressed, you are aware of it.

"There are situations that, apart from the child being depressed or having some sort of mental illness, there could be a situation where they feel hopeless for some reason," Allen said.

"It could be related to neglect or being in an environment with lots of conflict. It could be due to failure in school, even loneliness or bullying could be the other reasons. If you notice that a child is not sleeping well, not eating well, is getting withdrawn or is becoming more troublesome, get that child to see a counsellor or a mental health professional."