A one-day seminar was held for high school students on Grand Bahama Island at the Foster B. Pestaina Center on Thursday, April 20, as a part of National Child Abuse Prevention Month.
Organized by the Ministry of Social Services and Urban Development’s Department of Social Services School Welfare Division in observance of School Welfare Week, the seminar’s main focus was “Suicide, Depression and Anxiety Among Youth.”
Students from several schools on Grand Bahama, including Tabernacle Baptist Academy, Eight Mile Rock High School, St. George’s High School, St. Paul’s Methodist College, and Vanena C. Smith Academy, were selected by their school’s Guidance Counsellors to attend the forum with the aim of equipping them with the knowledge and understanding of the mental health challenges faced by young people today.
Focusing on depression, anxiety and suicide, seminar presenters drove home the point that, if left unaddressed, these three very critical issues can have significant consequences on a young person’s mental health and overall wellbeing, which is likely to affect them in the future. It is believed that as much as 75 percent of adult mental illness begins during childhood, including depression, eating disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder and anxiety disorders.
The School Welfare Division recognizes the importance of addressing these issues now among young people, and by raising awareness and providing support, they hope to ensure that the nation’s children are equipped to deal with these challenges in a healthy and positive manner.
Ms. Dorothea Gomez, Grand Bahama’s Chief Social Worker, expressed her satisfaction with the seminar, stating that the students actively participated by asking questions, and the presenters kept them engaged and interested in the topic.
She also stated, “It is heart-wrenching to learn that young people are going through these issues daily, including cutting themselves in school, suicidal ideation, teenage pregnancy, and much more. However, the seminar has given these students the knowledge and skills necessary to deal with these situations effectively.”
Ms. Gomez emphasized the importance of hosting this seminar on an annual basis, along with other child protection activities, because — as she noted — it is vital to empower young people with the knowledge and skills they need to protect their mental health and wellbeing.
On hand to support the effort were Senator, the Hon. Kirk Russell, Deputy Director of Urban Development and Mr. Melvin Seymour, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry for Grand Bahama. Senator, the Hon. James Turner, educators, counselors, and other special guests were also present.
School Welfare Week is just one of a slew of activities organised by the Ministry of Social Services and Urban Development in observance of National Child Protection Month. This year’s observance is being held under the theme “One Nation Uniting To Protect Our Children.”
Presenters for the event were Mrs. Lakiska Johnson, school psychologist with the Ministry of Education and Pastor Kyle Maycock, senior pastor at Freeport Bible Church.