Source: Trinidad Guardian: The plight of Nishal Sankat who is charged with attempting to steal an American Airlines plane should serve as a wake-up call to parents so that they understand mental health awareness says Education Minister Anthony Garcia.
In a statement yesterday, Garcia urged parents to be more vigilant in safeguarding the mental well-being of their children.
“The incident involving Sankat is a further wake-up call for a better understanding of mental health and wellness here in Trinidad and Tobago,” Garcia said.
“As I read articles and I hear the conversations taking place, it concerns me that the population is not as understanding of the reality of mental health as we should be. Nishal Sankat has now reiterated for me, the need for parents to be a bit more vigilant and to speak with their children.”
Garcia revealed that he spoke with Nishal’s father, former principal of the University of the West Indies Prof Clement Sankat, to offer some words of comfort in this difficult time that his family is facing.
“When he mentioned that depression was something his son was dealing with, the one thing that resonated with me was that this could be any of our children,” Garcia said.
“I want parents and the population to know that there are many resources that are available to all citizens if they ever feel like any situation is becoming too much to manage. Nishal went to good schools, had good grades, had the love and support of family and friends and still, something was missing for him that brought him to this point. None of us are exempt. All of us have a part to play in breaking the stigma of mental health and wellness and making it comfortable for persons who need help, to seek it.”
Garcia said the Ministry will provide support for students who are experiencing mental health challenges through the Student Support Services Division.
“Our social workers and guidance counsellors will offer support.”
He said employees could also get support through the Employee Assistance Programme.
“For any member of the public, there are mental health and wellness centres across the country that are accessible. We all have a responsibility to ensure that we are our brother’s keeper. Be attentive, ask questions and be a shoulder for someone who may need it. I am thankful that the outcome of this unfortunate incident was not a different one and that I am able to give this message today,” Garcia said.
He committed himself to work with schools and students so that mental health is given the same priority as physical health.
Sankat, 22, spent the night in prison after he appeared shackled in a US court charged with unarmed burglary, trespassing, and grand theft. The Prosecution objected to a US$22,500 bond on the basis that Sankat was a dual citizen of T&T and Canada. Sankat was a part-time student at the Florida Institute of Technology, where he studied Aviation Management. He told the court he did not have a job but instead received a US$5,000 stipend from his family. He also confirmed he had dual citizenship. Sankat was granted a bond on the first two charges but not on the charge of grand theft. ( Trinidad Guardian)