Child mental health and wellness KCNK 2023/2024 focus
NEWLY installed president of the Kiwanis Club of New Kingston (KCNK) Erica Haughton has charged members of the all-female club to join hands and hearts in addressing the poor mental health of children.
Speaking at the club’s 35th installation ceremony held at Terra Nova All-Suite Hotel in St Andrew on October 7, Haughton said the focus stems from unresolved childhood trauma and the resulting troubling behaviours of youth.
“Added to the basic needs of food, clothing and shelter, our children need stable emotional and behavioural support systems to guide them into being productive and well-balanced members of society,” Haughton said.
She added: “World Health Organization estimates that, worldwide, about 20 per cent of children and adolescents experience mental and behavioural disorders. Half of all mental illnesses begin by the age of 14 and are unidentified and untreated. I want to stress that children with mental health issues may struggle with low self-esteem, troubled relationships, and poor performance in school. They are the ones we hear about beating another child unconscious for something as simple as stepping on their shoe.”
Keynote speaker, consultant psychiatrist Dr Geoffrey Walcott painted a picture of a history of mental health challenges from slavery into post-colonial society, explaining that the minute one begins to dehumanise a group of people it leads to atrocities, much of which are still being played out in today’s society.
He further highlighted that most of the uncontrollable behaviour seen in children can be easily diverted, but “they don’t end up in the child guidance clinic because nobody recognises bad behaviour as a mental illness, which it is”.
“Children, particularly those who are depressed, do not present and tell you that they are sad. [Instead], they punch somebody in the face and box down a boy because him step on him shoes – that’s how depression presents in children. But do they get referred?” Dr Walcott questioned.
For the 2023/2024 administrative year KCNK will lend support to the child guidance clinic at the Comprehensive Health Centre in Kingston, as it embarks on an ambitious undertaking to train teachers and other community leaders to recognise and treat with the manifestations of mental health disorders.