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Falling Through the Cracks

Falling Through the Cracks | Counselling costs too high

Published:Wednesday | August 7, 2019 | 12:00 AMLynford Simpson/ Gleaner Writer
Dr Ganesh Shetty

The issue of emotional behavioural (mental health) disorders, which is often compounded by learning, intellectual and physical disorders, is a growing problem among Jamaica’s youth population.

An estimated 140,000 or 15 per cent of an estimated 930,000 children in Jamaica are suspected of having some mental-health issue. Of that number, five per cent or 46,000 require urgent intervention and attention, says Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist Dr Ganesh Shetty.

A vast majority of these children are not being reached as there is an almost total reliance on the child guidance clinics in the public sector for counselling and other interventions.

Prohibitive costs

This as the cost per session for counselling in the private sector is said to be prohibitive for most families.

The Gleaner understands that a family could fork out on average $120,000 for several sessions at private facilities.There are only 20 child guidance clinics in the island and many are operational just once per week or once per month because of a severe shortage of trained staff, said Shetty.

The problems faced by children with mental health, learning and intellectual challenges are many and varied.






-There are only 20 child guidance clinics spread across the country that provides counselling for potentially tens of thousands of children who need the service.


-Some clinics, especially those in rural Jamaica only see children once per month due to a severe shortage of staff which includes child psychiatrists, social workers and psychologists.


-Loose collaboration between the responsible agencies, ministries and departments of government including the ministries of justice; health and wellness; education, youth and information; and labour and social security.


-Poor families are forced to join a long waiting list in their quest to get counselling or other interventions for their children.


-Child service agencies and ministries need to work better in the system of care - clinicians have to go into the field, more mental health teams are needed.


-Gang violence sometimes prevent children from attending counselling sessions which are sometimes held in the nearest community centre to allow them to attend.


-Children who are counselled, especially those with PTSD, are often traumatised again as they go back to the gunfire and gang violence in their communities. These children are often kept awake at nights and fall asleep in class during the day. They are called lazy by teachers who do not understand.


-Children with mental health issues are often teased by their peers.


-They find solace with their buddies.


-They are sometimes neglected and abandoned by their parents.


-Those with PTSD relieve the trauma daily.


-They are often recruited by drug lords and area dons.


-They frequently become full-fledged gang members, especially those who express that they are emotionally dead.

Source – Dr Ganesh Shetty – Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist.