Find time to sit and listen to your children, UWI Professor advises
Fifty percent of mental disorders begin by age 14 and 50 percent of cases are untreated.
These were some of the statistics shared by Professor Wendel Abel, Professor of Mental Health Policy and Head of the Department of Community Health and Psychiatry in the Faculty of Medical Sciences at The UWI Mona Campus. Professor Abel revealed this information as he delivered the 2019 UWI/Guardian Group Premium Open Lecture.
This year’s lecture, which took place at The Daaga Auditorium at The UWI St Augustine Campus on Friday, September 27, focused on the theme, “Making a Difference in Education: Tackling Mental Health Issues.” During his presentation, Professor Abel explored problems in the Caribbean education system such as stress, suicide, trauma including adverse childhood experiences, crime and violence, as well as substance abuse.
He emphasised the need for increased mental health literacy in the education system to reduce stigma and discrimination and encourage greater acceptance.
He also explained how the education system provides the ideal context to promote positive development and mental well-being from an early age, “A culture of listening and caring and inclusion of more life skills component in the school curriculum can help students to cope with the stresses of life.”
Professor Abel, who has been a policy advisor and advocate for mental health in the Caribbean for many years, called on parents to focus on bonding with their children, especially in their first 1000 days from conception. He recommended a non-judgmental approach when disciplining children as they respond more positively to interactions that express kindness, patience, acceptance and listening.
“Many parents still think that children should be seen and not heard, find time to sit and listen to your child. Children need love and to feel loved. For children love is spelt T-I-M-E. Tell them you love them; fathers should do this too” advised Professor Abel.
He explained that spending quality time can boost children’s happiness and self-esteem whilst allowing parents to be more aware of their mental well-being and provide guidance: “The greatest agony is that untold story inside of you. Do not force individuals to tell. The slower you go the faster you get there”.