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Teens get mental health training

Published: 
Monday, October 31, 2016

Teenagers from several schools in San Fernando are being trained to identify and deal with mental health disorders. The Mental Health First Aid programme is being conducted by officials of the  South West Regional Health Authority (SWRHA).

Students from Presentation College, Naparima College, St Benedict’s College, Iere High School, St Joseph Convent and Asja Girls College, who recently took part in a training session at the San Fernando Teaching Hospital, were told by SWRHA CEO Anil Gosine that 75 per cent of all lifetime mental health disorders appear before age 24. He also said the college years are a crucial period as nearly half of mental disorders occur before age 15 when teenagers are moving from adolescence to adulthood.

Gosine said an annual average of 400 children and adolescents access mental health services at the Child Guidance Clinic. 

“According to a significant report by the World Health Organization (WHO), somebody dies by taking their own life every 40 seconds. The young are disproportionately affected. Providing more people with basic psychological and mental health first aid skills will help to decrease the current rate of suicide in T&T which is 13 to 100,000,” he said.

“Psychological and mental distress can happen anywhere. In our homes, in our schools, in the workplace, in the supermarkets and in public spaces. Psychological and mental health first aid is a potentially life-saving skill that we all need to have. We can make the world a better place.”

Psychiatric social worker Joanna Maharaj, who provided guidelines on how to assist children and teenagers suffering from trauma, told the students it was important that they protect themselves. 

Maharaj said children who suffer physical and emotional abuse can display anger, instability, shock, denial and other symptoms. Therefore, a young person approaching someone showing these signs should ensure there are safe exits and no weapons around. 

Stressing that it was important to detect trauma, she outlined several signs based on age groups:
• Under 5: Thumb sucking, fear, bed wetting.
• Ages 6-11: Loss of interest in friends and fun activities, nightmares, unfounded fears and easily irritated
• Ages 12-17: Flashback of traumatic events, nightmares, sleeplessness, avoidance of places where past traumas occurred, drug and/or alcohol use and disruptive and rude behaviours.

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