Mental health is as essential as physical health and it plays a huge role in a child’s well-being. Studies have shown that suicide is a leading cause of death among children under nineteen. Dr. Susan Kasedde, the UNICEF Representative for Belize said parents play a crucial role to ensure that their children are in good mental health.
Dr. Susan Kasedde – UNICEF Representative in Belize: “Parents play a critical role as both the contributors to mental health and to positive mental health and the support system for teenagers in terms of their mental health. As I mentioned one of the disturbing pieces of data that we have on our teenargers is that the vast majority of them experience extremely high levels of verbal and psychological aggression as they grow so 60% of 10 to 14 year olds experience this level of violent, emotional and psychological aggression. This sets teenagers on the path for poor mental health because it facilitates the offset of anxiety, fear, low self esteem and potentially disruptive attitudes and practices and it also establishes a model that can continue a cycle of violence.”
UNICEF and the Ministry of Health are partnering together to address the problem of mental health in children. Eleanor Bennett, the Head of the Mental Health Unit for the Ministry of Health, explained the kinds of mental health services available to children.
Eleanor Bennett – Head of the Mental Health Unit: “The Ministry of Health when it comes to services for adolescents it focuses on two areas: one is to make services accessible in the Health center so what we call primary health care or in the small communities where people live and we have been able to do that through providing mental health staff in clinics. We have eight clinics all over the country and we also conduct mobile clinics in areas that are hard to access. The second area that we focus on is mental health promotion which is talking about Mental Health and also Disease prevention, teaching people skills on how to manage so that they don’t get depressed or so that they can manage suicidal thoughts. We have done quite a bit of work in schools, we work with the Ministry of Education, The Department of Human Services. We have a strong referral system between these different agencies and this is all so that we can have a system that catches adolescence that might be having mental health issues.”
Fifteen percent of people who died during the last ten years ranged in ages ten to nineteen years old.