Saturday, 6 June 2015

Price of a life

Last week I got a startling glimpse at how precarious life can be.

One of the trainees came into see a colleague while I was present. We thought the discussion was going to be about his grades; he thought it was about the screwdriver he had in his pocket so he could stab another boy. Needless to say that changed things.

Once the screwdriver had been taken, staff tried to figure out what was going on. This boy is quiet and respectful, not at all someone you would expect to hurt anyone. When asked what he thought would happen if he stabbed the other boy he said "I would be sent home." He didn't have any thoughts of what would happen to the other boy.

While his inability to connect his potential actions to their results was disturbing, it was not nearly as troubling as what he was willing to stab someone over. The conflict? The boy owed him $1 XCD. In fact when we dug a little deeper, the boy did not in fact owe him the money. So this boy could have been stabbed over a perceived slight of about fifty cents Canadian.

For me this points to the lack of resources for mental health, and it is worse for children. There are almost no psychiatric or psychological services available. In 2011 the World Health Organization conducted a study in the Caribbean on mental health. In Grenada there were no psychologists and only "1.8" psychiatrists for the entire country.   Teachers, guidance counsellors do what they can but they are not trained or equipped with the resources that are required to deal with the multi-layered problems children and teens face in the Caribbean.

I know in Canada we often bemoan the fact that there are few resources available for mental health, but in relationship to what is available here, we are so lucky.

In Canada we would recognize that this young man needs professional help (as it is recognized here) and he would be referred to resources. If he did commit a crime we would take his mental health into consideration and again find ways to provide treatment and rehabilitation.

Here I fear this young man will eventually do something stupid that will put him in conflict with the law and there will not be the same considerations given. He is a good kid on a collision course with a troubling future and without mental health resources there is little anyone can do to change this.

I am really hoping that a program called "Saving Brain Grenada" will start to make a difference in the area of mental health. I am hoping they will be able to stop these trajectories before they get started. They are training caregivers how to control their own emotions and reactions to their children and then use positive connected parenting skills so that there are less children who are physically, verbally and emotionally abused by well intentioned parents who just don't have the skills to do things differently. As Maya Angelou said "When you know better, you do better."

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