Mental Health Service A Must For Our Schools

Mental health comprises our emotional, psychological and social wellbeing.
26 Jun 2019 16:52


When a student fails to respond as other students normally do, how do teachers handle the situation?

When a child refuses to go to school, how do the parents react?

These are questions that need to be addressed to understand not only young people’s psychology, but also the state of their mental health.

Mental health comprises our emotional, psychological and social wellbeing.

Mental health experts say it affects our thoughts, feelings and actions and is important for everyone. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others and make choices. When mental health is neglected it can develop into mental illness. Early warning signs include: Eating or sleeping too much or too little; Pulling away from people and usual activities; Having low or no energy; Feeling numb or like nothing matters; Having unexplained aches and pains; Feeling helpless or hopeless; Smoking, drinking, or using drugs more than usual; Feeling unusually confused, forgetful, on edge, angry, upset, worried, or scared; Yelling or fighting with family and friends; Experiencing severe mood swings that cause problems in relationships; Having persistent thoughts and memories you can’t get out of your head; Hearing voices or believing things that are not true; Thinking of harming yourself or others; and Inability to perform daily tasks like taking care of your kids or getting to work or school.

These can further develop to mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, eating disorders and addictive behaviours.

A lobby group in New Zealand advocating increased mental health awareness highlights that the country has the highest youth suicide rate in the world.

It says there is a big lack of knowledge about prevention and recovery.

In Fiji there is a great need to promote mental health.

Last week, at a prominent Suva school, a child was given a hiding by a woman, presumably the mother, for refusing to go into the classroom.

The violence was unacceptable and wrong. She publicly humiliated the child causing an emotional trauma that could stay with the boy for a long time.

How many parents and children go through a similar experience?

At school, despite the outlawing of corporal punishment, some teachers are struggling with the law.

There have been cases where they have to go through disciplinary proceedings because they have allegedly breached the law.

Under pressure they resort to the only way they know. Some call it tough love not corporal punishment.

Some teachers’ contracts have been terminated because they have broken the law.

It is time that the Government and particularly the Ministry of Education do more for mental health.

The challenge at school with corporal punishment can be best dealt with if they have a full-time mental health expert. He or she can be a nurse with mental health experience who can provide basic consultations and diagnosis before the students are referred to designated specialist mental health providers.

Maybe next year the Government can increase its mental health allocation.

In the new National Budget, Public Health Services, which includes mental health, gets $6.4 million.

While we cannot compare ourselves with New Zealand, the Government there has allocated a record NZ$1.9 billion to mental health over five years in the first well-being Budget.

When we enjoy positive mental health, the students’ academic performance, national productivity and the economy will improve.

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