The country’s second COVID-19 lockdown in less than a year, is contributing to a significant increase in mental health issues, according to Director of the Psychiatric Hospital, David Leacock.
Particularly worrying however is the mental condition of some of the island’s youth. The concerns follow the second suspected suicide of a young male in less than a week.
So serious is the issue, Leacock revealed that the revival of a Suicide Prevention Hotline is now extremely high on Government’s agenda.
On Valentine’s day, the body of 27-year-old Andrew Ellis was found hanging at his Windy Ridge, Christ Church home. Three days later at Crab Hill, St. Lucy, the body of 19-year-old Tyrique Norville was found hanging, according to a police report.
In the last 12 months alone, at least eight of the country’s suspected suicides claimed persons under the age of 40. Four of those eight young people were teenagers.
According to Leacock, in addition to a myriad of possible social, environmental and psychological issues, youth are even more vulnerable during lockdowns with little to no interaction with their peers.
“Most younger persons are accustomed hanging out with their friends and persons of their age group to do similar things. And even though we have Facetime and Whatsapp and other things that allow people to still keep in contact, sometimes it’s not the same thing and there is still an element of physicality that is necessary for young persons in their development, so it might have an impact of them,” he told Barbados TODAY.
On the issue of suicide, he stressed: “Suicide is seldom a singular event. It is normally a case where multiple factors come together to bring a person to the point of actually taking their own life… Some people may experience what seems like a small event, but to them, at the point in time it occurs, so many other things may be going on in their life that a seemingly small event might be the one to convince them that life is no longer worth living.
“For young people, there are many factors that go into it including social. We are hoping persons find ways that they can cope, whether it is through interactions with their friends or developing new peer groups through social media. We all, at some point, need to learn to adapt but that is obviously much easier said than done,” the mental health officer added.
Currently, the Psychiatric Hospital offers a 24-hour hotline through its Assessment Unit to provide immediate counselling if possible or to schedule appointments with mental health professionals.
The hospital director however disclosed that the Ministry of Health has been working closely with distinguished Consultant Psychologist Dr. Joy Sue to reactivate the suicide helpline that was once operated by The Samaritans of Barbados.
“Within our programme budget this year, we have laid out a plan toward entering a partnership with a private entity if possible whether it’s the Samaritans our otherwise. That is one of the things that we have laid out to get done so we can have the support in place for persons who need that level of intervention,” Leacock added.
In the meantime, he revealed that requests for mental health assistance are increasing.
“I can’t say we have an increase of 10 per cent or 20 per cent… but we have had at least two or three entities this week alone who are working with certain groups and asking them about their mental health and to a large extent quite a few persons are saying it’s not the best.
“Some are saying it’s quite bad and others are saying they’re down in the dumps. So we are seeing an increase in the number of requests for us to come in and do a Zoom session or at least a programme that can help these persons,” Leacock explained.
At the community level, the hospital director is urging persons, to be more receptive to the challenges facing their family members and friends, particularly with men, who are less likely to discuss their feelings.
“Our societies often limit how we express ourselves and they don’t see us being very manly if we are talking about our issues, so any opportunity that allows for persons to ventilate and say how they are feeling [are welcomed]. But once they do it, somebody must be willing to listen and have an open and frank discussion,” he added.
One Reply to “Mental health chief worries young people not coping”
I endorsed everything that was said here. As a retired Mental health social worker, I fear also that younger children are deeply affected by these new norms.
I do understand that it is important to preserve life in terms of the current covid 19. However I fear that most of these protocols will hamper life to the extent that some young and vulnerable people will view life as not worth living.
I believe that there needs to be a more sensitive approach when setting out these protocols. I also feel that there is little input given by the public from the powers that be. For example, I feel that there need to be various members of the public involve when making decisions. Who can voice their opinions and can assist in influencing protocols and policies practices.
What about a forum of people such young people, disabled people, elderly people, parents and the police. Ordinary people from the public as an inclusion rather than an exclusion.
I often sit and watch all of these press connferences and cringed at the way some of them speak at the public. Then we get those people who are in positions to carry out their role and responsibilities, mis handling and shouting at proplevinvpublis places. This behaviour is cascaded down to those people in their positions. No wonder why this behaviour is demonstrated in the public behaviour in the media and in public. I am affraid this also impacts on the mental health of the youth and the public on a whole.
There was a time ago when we looked up to our political leaders, teachers, police and our elders. These values has been a thing of the past. Let’s develop our youth but we all need to maintain those values that once shape our society and that have made us a proud nation and one who others once admired.
I am happy to use my skills and experience to assist in anyway possible. I lived in England for 55 years and is now back in Barbados a place where I grew up as a child. Britain has done me proud, despite all the racism . I can honestly say I had opportunities that has developed me, along with my good up bringing as a Barbadian native.