Child Affairs Division tackles mental health in children – Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

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Children’s Affairs Division Coordinator Leah Paddier delivers keynote address at the Ministry of Children and Gender Affairs; Mindful Moods, Happy Views Program on May 24 at the National Racquet Center, Tacarigua. – Photo by Enrique Rupert

THE month of May is dedicated to mental health awareness, and the Division of Gender and Children’s Affairs hosted an event called Mindful Mood, Happy Views for fourth and fifth grade students, educating them on how to improve their mental health.

The event took place on May 24 at the National Racquet Center in Tacarigua and was attended by children from more than a dozen primary schools in Trinidad and Tobago.

There were several organizations on hand with booths full of activities, information and gifts for the children after the formal program was over.

Some of the organizations were Kids in Need of Direction (KIND), the National AIDS Coordinating Committee, the Ministry of Labour, the Children’s Authority and the National Institute of Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology (NIHERST).

Minister of Gender and Children’s Affairs Ayanna Webster-Roy sent her regards as she was unable to attend due to a session of Parliament.

Division of Children’s Affairs Coordinator Leah Paddier said, “We are very excited to commemorate Mental Health Awareness Month by reducing stress in our standard fourth and fifth grade students.

“We’re even more excited to make sure we give you the strategies you can use to manage your stress for the rest of your life, whether it’s before the exam, exam, or even after the exam.”

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Paddier said the intensity of academic pressure, along with pressure from teachers, parents and the national population at large, has led to an increase in mental health problems in young children.

“We seek to provide specific and holistic care to children to prevent self-destructive behaviors such as suicide, suicide attempts or even self-harm.”

He said the Division of Children’s Affairs seeks to improve mental health during Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) exams by “reducing exam stress and increasing mental health resilience.”

“Our response is both preventative and curative in nature as it seeks to foster a culture of mental health awareness and resilience among students.”

Mental health worker Sunshine Anderson has been working closely with the Division of Children’s Affairs.

Anderson works with children to teach them about their rights and mental health awareness.

“I am happy to be here for the Mental Moods, Happy Views programme, which is designed to help children de-stress in preparation for the SEA exams.”

Anderson added that sometimes adults don’t always understand children’s perspectives and problems.

“This event is aimed at teaching children active skills to improve their mental health and tips to eliminate stress, so that they can take away tools while preparing for exams, so that they know what to do and can express their opinions.

“We also have resources for parents and teachers, because it is an equally stressful time for both.”

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