Jamaica’s Traumatized Youth: National Children and Adolescents’ Mental Health Awareness Day Inaugurated

We have good reason to be concerned about the mental health of our children and adolescents, as they struggle to grow up in a very tough social and economic climate. So, I am applauding the Nathan Ebanks Foundation, which has been working with the Ministry of Health and others to draw attention to the issue of mental health among our young people. This is a hugely important issue for Jamaica, if we wish to get the next generation or two off to a positive, healthy start. “Our children are our future” is a hackneyed phrase, used too often. Yet it is important to build a strong future for Jamaica, through the next generation. Please support this effort, and the Nathan Ebanks Foundation, in any way you can. 

Today is the last day of Child Month in Jamaica. With all the activities that have taken place… Please let us nurture and love our children, all year round!

Kingston, Jamaica, Wednesday, May 27, 2015: Nathan Ebanks Foundation, a leading non-profit working to promote emotional and mental health among all children, inclusively (with and without disabilities), is proud to work with the Ministry of Health and other local partners to raise awareness about the importance of emotional wellbeing and mental health among children for the inaugural National Children and Adolescent’s Mental Health Awareness Day. This year’s theme is “Children and Adolescent Mental Health Matters” and brings together leadership across a variety sectors to collaborate, raise awareness and discussion, and inspire change.

The Health Promoting Schools Survey, carried out island wide in a number of primary and secondary schools in 2011-2012, revealed that 12.9% (or 516 children and youths) of the 4,000 young persons surveyed “[feel] like hurting themselves.” UNICEF 2013 Annual Report stated that “children and adolescents (0 to19 years of age) accounted for approximately one third of intentional injuries treated at public hospitals in 2012; just over one half (52 per cent) were boys. Jamaica’s high crime rate continues to impact children: 3,017 boys and 1,023 girls came before the courts in 2012 for varying offences”… We began to get very concerned with what was happening with our children.

The data further tells us that:

  • One out of 2 or 44.5% of Jamaicans who live in poverty is a child
  • Children in rural areas are most affected with an estimated 26.6% of them living in poverty.
  • Over the last 5 years, 9,702 children were reported missing… 25% of them have never been found…2,426.
  • In the first three months of 2015 there was 622 reported cases of missing children.. 467 have since returned, 146 are still missing and 9 are deceased.
  • In the same period 30 children between 0 and 17 were murdered.
  • Statistics from the OCR is reporting an alarming growth in the numbers of cases of child abuse being reported… While it is good that cases are being reported, the numbers and growth are alarming.

Trauma isn’t something that a child just simply gets over or ‘grows’ out of. It is well established that the repeated stress of abuse, neglect, and other issues (such as parents’ struggling with mental health or substance abuse issues) has real, tangible effects on the development of the brain and psyche of a child. The impact unfolds across the lifetime of the child and into adulthood. Studies have shown that those who’ve experienced high levels of trauma are at triple the risk for abusive behaviour, poor self-esteem, failure in school, suicide and later on in life, heart disease and lung cancer. With help from families, teachers, providers, and the community, children and youth can demonstrate resilience when dealing with trauma.

National Children and Adolescents’ Mental Health Awareness Day will draw nationwide attention to the issue of children’s mental health, as well as encourage systemic changes among key duty-bearers to transform mental health delivery systems so they are more effective for children, youth, and their families. The day will also launch the Nathan Ebanks Foundation’s Caring for the Holistic Development of every Jamaican Child,” which will over the next two years include a series of interventions, including regional Parenting Information Fairs, Child and Adolescent Poster Competition, and Inclusive Education Conference & Accessibility Expo scheduled for October 28-31, 2015.

Media Contact:

Christine Staple-Ebanks, Nathan Ebanks Foundation

Tel: 876 632 7835

Email: info@nefjamaica.org  Website: www.nefjamaica.org

Conference Website:  https://www.regonline.com/JamInclusiveEdConference2015

About the Nathan Ebanks Foundation

The Nathan Ebanks Foundation® (NEF) was founded in 2007 by the parents of a child with disabilities in Jamaica, The NEF is established on the mission to ensure that all children, particularly children with disabilities, and families with children with special challenges are made aware, educated, engaged and mobilized in the knowledge of their fundamental rights to care, protection, paths to holistic development and self-actualization.

The NEF’s principles are in alignment and guided by the international standards established under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) which promote and propose basic human rights for children.   

The NEF:

  • Trains policy makers, teachers, parents and administrators through signature/customised workshops, conferences and specialized forums to advance children’s rights and provide improved services
  • Advocates at the highest level of the society to broaden the base of support for children living with disabilities, children who are at risk and those with special needs and their families/carers
  • Partners with key institutions/duty-bearers and the private sector to deliver improved services to children and families
  • Conducts research on key sector issues to inform policy and practice
  • Serves as a resource centre for the nation’s educational institutions and agencies, administering or creating curricula for persons with disabilities

 To achieve these objectives, the NEF works through centers of academic research; a network of children and disabilities communities (locally, regionally and internationally); local agencies involved in policy making and project implementation; and most importantly, partnering with key private sector organizations in the sponsoring and promotion of workshops and public sensitization programs which contribute directly to the reform and mainstreaming of rights for persons with disabilities.



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