Every month more than a hundred new people are being admitted to the mental health clinic of the San Fernando General Hospital, many of whom are children.
This startling revelation was made by the chief executive officer of the Southwest Regional Health Authority Keith McDonald during the launch of a mental awareness seminar held at the Carnegie Free Library in San Fernando on Monday.
McDonald said depression and other mental health disorders are no longer adult ailments but are affecting scores of children across the country.
He said peer pressure was rampant and some children were now inflicting self-harm.
McDonald said a battery of social workers, a child psychiatrist and counselors from the Child Guidance Clinic are working to help affected children.
“You don’t need to suffer in silence. Don’t draw into a corner when you feel pressured. Speak to someone. We have set up a system to help you. If you feel bothered about something we have an experienced team of staff to help you,” McDonald said.
He added that over the next few months the teams will be visiting seven libraries across the region to raise awareness of mental health. He said social workers and psychiatrists will make confidential home and school visits and children will get help.
He noted that assessments are done in the privacy of the hospital.
Meanwhile, regional manager of mental health Pooran Sankar said the recent statistics were alarming and underscored the importance of treating with mental health.
“We need to work together to ensure that we assist our children. The issue of self-harm is getting to a dangerous level when it comes to our children. When you can’t control feelings of depression it may bring on the issue of suicide. We are losing 800,000 persons in the world to suicide every year. It means 40 people are committing suicide every second. The World Health Organization estimates that to every completed suicide there may be 20 attempted suicides,” he said.
He also added that the stigma of mental health must also be addressed.
Sankar said major depression, also known as unipolar or major depressive disorder, was on the increase globally. Ranked as number five currently on the global disease index, Sankar said it was poised to be number 2 on the global disease index in 2020 and possibly number one by 2030. Unipolar disorder is characterised by a persistent feeling of sadness or a lack of interest in outside stimuli.
Sankar said the Government was striving to provide care for mental disorders at all primary health care facilities rather than to send patients to a central mental health institution. He noted that the team has also been trying to reach mothers from the antenatal clinic who could be suffering from post-partum depression.
Primary health care physician Dr Sandi Arthur also told the audience that depression was linked to child obesity which triggers a range of illness such as pre-diabetes and hypertension.
She said children were no longer engaged in outdoor playing as before and they were not getting the right amount of exercise.