KINGSTON — Director of Mental Health Services and Substance Abuse, Ministry of Health, Dr. Maureen Irons-Morgan says parents and care-givers must communicate more with their children, in order to be constantly aware of their actions.
She emphasised that this is very necessary, in light of the high incidence of suicides among children and adolescents, since the start of the year.
Speaking at a JIS ‘Think Tank’, on June 7, Dr. Irons-Morgan noted that of the 24 suicides committed across the island between January and May 2011, four involved children and adolescents, compared to one case that was reported for the similar period last year.
The Director pointed to the need for greater vigilance in limiting the exposure of children to undesirable influences in the media, which she said, largely impact “how children think, behave and ultimately what they do”.
“It is important for parents to develop that level of communication, so you can know what they (children) are actually thinking,” she said.
Dr. Irons-Morgan cited the integral role that the family unit must play in tackling mental disorders, and further highlighted the school and the community as key support systems.
“As you are aware, children and adolescents need special attention and often when children have problems, it’s not just them you are dealing with, it’s their families. The Ministry has been working with Guidance Counsellors, teachers and coaches to recognise early emotional or mental health problems, to do early intervention or refer appropriately,” she told JIS News.
In the meantime, Dr. Irons-Morgan pointed to the inextricable link between suicide and depression. She said that depression, the most common form of mental disorder associated with suicide, can be easily masked and therefore often goes undiagnosed in children and adolescents. “People who feel alone and socially isolated, tend to be at more risk for depression and suicide,” she said.
The Director advised that care-givers of children with signs and symptoms of depression or other mental disorders should seek counselling, as one coping mechanism. This, she noted, will help victims to develop their inner strength and will to examine other possibilities.
The Ministry of Health operates child guidance clinics across the island where persons can seek relevant assistance, Dr. Irons-Morgan said, and referred care-givers to the manual, ‘Raising Emotionally Smart Children’, printed by the Ministry of Education, as a guide to caring for children and adolescents with mental disorders.
She stressed the need for proper lifestyle approach, which includes: eating healthy, exercising, maintaining good relationships, and having fun, as a means of dealing with depression and other related mental disorders.
By JENEVA GORDON, JIS PR Officer