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October 5, 2023
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October 5, 2023

CEBM addresses mental health issues among children

By Raysha M Purcell, Project Manager, CEBM

It is no secret that undesirable behaviours in schools are prevalent. It is an undying pain with which administrators of the schools continue to struggle.

The burning desire of the Catholic Education Board of Management (CEBM) and school administrators is to understand and support students on deeper levels and provide interventions where necessary.

In 2012, the then Minister of Health issued a statement in observance of World Mental Health Day. The statement indicated that “approximately one quarter of our population, or 1 in 4 persons, is afflicted by mental illness”.

Mood disorders such as depression account for 30 per cent of the reported cases of mental illness in Trinidad and Tobago. The last Global School Health Survey (2007) conducted in Trinidad and Tobago revealed that 21.5 per cent of students felt sad or hopeless almost every day to the extent that they stopped participating in their usual activities.

It is unfortunate that oftentimes, children living with mental illnesses receive unfavourable labels such as ‘bad child’, ‘delinquent’, or even ‘beyond control’. The CEBM understands that mental health, and the unexplainable behaviours which may emerge, is evidently and partially, one of the main culprits affecting students’ behaviours.

The CEBM decided to respond to the current needs of our students and as such, developed with Dr Stafford Pierre, a Consultant Psychiatrist at the St Ann’s Mental Hospital, a two-phase project focusing on ‘Addressing Behavioural Problems and Mental Health Issues among Children’.

The project sought to further empower our principals and teachers to have a greater understanding of undesirable behaviours displayed by students and better identify and understand emotional and mental health disorders that our children display to assist in the application of appropriate interventions.

Dr Pierre has volunteered both his services and expertise to the work of the CEBM.

On Friday, September 15, the CEBM conducted its final Mental and Emotional Health Training session for Principals of Catholic primary schools from the Southern and Central Vicariates. The session was held at the St Benedict’s RC Parish Hall, La Romaine.

Both phases of the project comprised a total of eight workshops all conducted by Dr Pierre during the period January – July 2023. To date, RC primary school principals, from all vicariates – Northern, Eastern, Suburban, Southern and Central have been exposed to the training.

At the final session, Dr Pierre reminded the principals that, “being able to recognise and support kids’ mental health in schools matters because they are treatable, early detection and strategies work and they can help improve resilience and the ability to succeed in school and life.”

As a result of this project, a positive collaboration has emerged between seven primary schools in the Cedros district – Icacos Government, Lochmaben RC, Cedros Government, Cedros Anglican, Coromandel Anglican, Granville RC and Chatham Government.

The idea of forging collaboration among the RC schools in the Cedros area was initiated by Kathleen Warner-Lall, Quality Assurance Manager, CEBM. Warner-Lall held talks with Fr Alphonse Madanu MSFS, parish priest of Cedros, to discuss further outreach of parish and schools, under the banner of Parish Ministry to Schools.

Plans are currently underway with the principals of the seven schools to conduct a similar workshop to be facilitated by Dr Pierre. It is carded to take place on November 3, at the Chatham Government School.

Participants will include all members of staff of these seven schools.

The relevant Ministry of Education approval is being sought. Sharon Mangroo, CEO, CEBM, has graciously agreed to this collaborative initiative. Mangroo conveys her best wishes for a successful outcome.

It is hoped that schools will be better equipped to identify, address, and seek timely interventions for students who are presenting with these conditions. In providing Catholic Education to our students, “emotional and character formation” of our students, reaching every child and keeping them in school are of paramount importance.

The CEBM upholds that we all have a role to play on the journey to building a synodal Church; strengthening Parish Ministry to Schools and bringing to life the Church’s theme, Building Community, Inclusivity and Dialogue.