Children as young as ten years old are ending in the island’s sole mental institution as a result of what Director of the Psychiatric Hospital David Leacock said were mostly behavioural problems.
However, Leacock today expressed particular concern over the plight of one young inmate, who was sent to the hospital by the Child Care Board for treatment.
Leacock told Barbados TODAY this afternoon that while other children have been coming and going for short periods of time, the boy, who is between ten to 12 years of age, has been resident at the Psychiatric Hospital for at least two years now with no immediate plans for his official discharge.
As a result of his hospitalization, the boy has not been able to attend school and is therefore being deprived of a formal education.
Leacock did not want to go into any details about the boy’s mental condition, but admitted that the situation in which the child finds himself was far from ideal.
Asked why these minors were being admitted to the Psychiatric Hospital and not to a more child-friendly setting, Leacock responded: “When they go to the homes themselves, they would have issues that the aunties or [other caregivers] are not able to manage.
“Sometimes some of them would require medication and what’s not from our end,” he explained.
The hospital director also noted that some of the children would have been seen by various professionals to determine their state of mind or eligibility to be admitted to the mental institution.
“We try to work with [them] to get them up to scratch. Sometimes the staff on the ward would work with them, but that is obviously not the ideal situation. We prefer to have them in the school environment.
“At present, based on the issues we are presented with, it is not a situation where we can have them returned to the normal school environment,” Leacock told Barbados TODAY.
However, he pointed out that there were children who in the past, would have gone to school while they were patients at the hospital.
“We had persons in the past that would have gone to school from us, that were actually resident at Psychi and would have gone off to school. . . . But that has not been the case with this particular young man. We have been maintaining the full programme. As far as schooling is concerned, that’s not been possible based on his hospitalization,” added Leacock.
In April this year, President of the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union (BSTU) Mary Ann Redman urged the Ministry of Education and Attorney General’s Office to provide a proper facility to help deviant students.
While not speaking in terms of mentally ill students at the time, the union boss was adamant that the normal school setting could not cater to the needs of those whose behaviour poses a threat to teachers and students alike.