According to a release from the St. Kitts Information (SKNIS) the disclosure was made during a recent two-day symposium where Clifford Griffin, officer in the Ministry of Health, during his introductory statement to the gathering, said an increasing number of children are being referred to the mental health services.
He added that a PAHO/Ministry of health study revealed that, “Over 62% of fourth form students in St. Kitts and Nevis reported symptoms of depression and ten percent reported experiencing symptoms that meet the criteria for severe depression.”
It was further revealed that the students who were most depressed were generally those who also exhibited criminal and violent behaviour and those who experienced motherhood as teenagers. In many cases substance abuse was also a factor especially the use of marijuana.
Meanwhile, Minister of Health Marcella Liburd told participants that part of the ministry’s strategy would be greater integration of mental health into the primary health care system. Apart from addressing the treatment of the mental illness itself, she said the ministry also had to deal with the negative societal perception of the issue.
“Anecdotal evidence suggests that there is stigma and discrimination associated with mental health locally and the families of individuals who need assistance delay it for as long as they can.” Said Minister Liburd
Consultant psychiatrist from St Vincent, Dr. Amery Morris Patterson told SKNIS that the stigma is not unique to St. Kitts. She explained that in the Caribbean at mental health is underserved with an acute shortage of mental health professionals and because of the stigma affected persons often suffer in secrecy and in silence.
Dr. Morris said at the end of the symposium the capacity of participating institutions would be strengthened through increased awareness. Resident Psychiatrist Dr. Sharon Halliday conducted a pre-test of participants to determine the impact of the symposium on participants’ knowledge once the symposium was complete.
The symposium was organized in an attempt to pinpoint cause factors and develop interventions to assist youth in dealing with the issues that are affecting them emotionally and mentally.
Upon completion of the seminar, early diagnosis, intervention and treatment of mental health disorders were some of the areas that were pinpointed as ways of addressing the increasing number of mental health issues among youth in St. Kitts and Nevis.
Additionally, a cross section of youth workers in a number of fields including counsellors, teachers, health care providers, social workers, probation officers and medical students participated in the two-day symposium.