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Let’s protect our children from mental illness

botchway October 9, 2018

 

Today is World Mental Health Day and the Acting Director of the Ankaful Psychiatric Hospital, Dr Kwadwo Marfo Obeng, has warned that parents who wake their children up early in order to beat traffic and get to school early may be exposing the children to mental illness.

The warning, as mild as it seems, must be taken very serious by parents and guardians who have the health of their children and wards at heart, while the day must be used to soberly reflect on the mental health status of our children.

Although a number of factors have been assigned the massive failure in the recently released West Africa Senior Secondary Certificate Examination results by the Ministry of Education, the Medical Director of the Accra Psychiatric Hospital, Dr Augustine Pinaman Apau, has apportioned part of the problem to mental disorders that affected the students.

The Chronicle has observed that today’s work demands on parents and the practice of moving children in and out of school, with little family engagement, are exposing children to stress.

It is, indeed, disturbing to see very young children wake up around 3:30am and leave home about 4:30am because they live far from school. The unfortunate development is a catalyst for mental illness, according to the Psychiatrist.

The Chronicle is baffled that children are made get to school an hour or two before school opens, only for them to loiter around, doing nothing.

Why would parents and school authorities put the very children they are supposed to bring up, through such a stressful practice?

We, at The Chronicle, would like to suggest to the authorities of schools to put in place measures to safe guard the health of our children placed under their care.

To The Chronicle, it is possible to have a schedule for very young children that allows them to report to school after 8am, so that they would have the recommended hours of sleep which ultimately promotes their health.

If we hide behind today’s heavy work schedule and traffic to push our children through such stress, we may end up hurting their mental capacities, as has been suggested by the Psychiatrist.

With that said, The Chronicle would like to appeal to the health authorities to use World Mental Health Day, celebrated on October 10, every year, to review policies on child health.

We are aware that the World Federation for Mental Health created the day 24 years ago as a global platform for all nations to create awareness of mental health and issues associated with mental illness.

And, because this year’s event is on the theme: “Young People and Mental Health in a Changing World”, The Chronicle would be glad if adequate stakeholders inputs are made to ensure that our children are given the best of health care.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) says that half of all mental illnesses began by age 14, and worldwide 10-20 per cent of children and adolescents suffer from mental disorders, and this, to us at The Chronicle, is a very worrying trend which must engage the attention of our health authorities, especially as we celebrate young people and mental health.

According to the WHO, depression is the third leading cause of mental illness and disability among adolescents globally, while suicide is the second leading cause of deaths among 15-29-year-olds.

What this means is that, indeed, the time is ripe to initiate a discussion on when children should even report for school.

The Chronicle would like to stress that parents should consider the critical issues of where they reside in relation to where they should work, and where they live in relation to where their children should go to school.

The WHO has raised red flags about the potential dangers of mental illness during adolescence, and the early years of adulthood, indicate that in Africa about five per cent of the population aged below 15 years suffer from mental disorder.

What frightens The Chronicle most is the fact that most these cases go undetected and untreated, with serious long-term consequences for mental health, according to the Country Representative of the WHO, Dr Owen Kaluwa.

From the foregoing, The Chronicle would strongly call for concerted efforts to protect the health of our children.

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