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Advocate highlights mental health concerns among youth

Observer Media – The Acting Director of Family and Social Services has said one of the major mental health issues of concern among students in the twin island is depression, as the young people continue online learning amid the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic after over a year in Antigua and Barbuda.

Feona Charles-Richards said that she is especially hopeful that young people are not engaged in self harm during this period.

She explained that parents are often at work trying to make a living to take care of their children, and while, previously, teachers would often see and report instances of self-harm.

“Whereas now, they may be locked up in their rooms in their classes, et cetera, and parents may not be able to notice some of the challenges they may be having,” she explained.

Charles-Richards is also concerned that mental health issues for people under the age of 18 have not been getting the attention needed to adequately address them.

She added that the present “archaic” laws governing the management of mental health issues are prohibitive with respect to the treatment of people in this age group.

The acting family and social services head said that under the present guidelines, if a recommendation is made that someone should see a psychiatrist from a professional in the division, parents must use a private physician which can be prohibitive due to cost.

“Most parents have to fork out $600 to see a psychiatrist should their children be presenting with any challenges. Now, commonly, what parent who does not have a good paying job can afford $600?” she queried.

Charles-Richards says while a parent could take their child to the Mount St John’s Medical Centre if they believe that he/she is experiencing a mental health emergency, once he/she is stabilised the child must then see a psychiatrist.

She said while some parents can afford treatment for their children, many cannot, therefore she is hoping that the law will change, thus making it possible for this vulnerable group to access more affordable help through publicly employed psychiatrists.

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