EDUCATION Minister Anthony Garcia claims the mental health of Nishal Sankat, who is accused of stealing an air plane in the US, is a wake up call for mental wellness in TT.
In a media release yesterday, Garcia said he spoke with Sankat’s father, Professor Clement Sankat, former UWI principal and was told that the 22-year-old was depressed.
“I spoke with Nishal’s father Professor Clement Sankat to offer some words of comfort in this difficult time that his family is facing and when he mentioned that depression was something his son was dealing with the one thing that resonated with me was that this could be any of our children,” he said.
Garcia added that the population is not as understanding of the reality of mental health as needed and Sankat’s incident in Florida reiterated for him the need for parents “to be a bit more vigilant and to speak with their children”. He added that there are resources available to citizens who feel like any situation is becoming too much to manage.
Sankat boarded an American Airlines A321 Airbus at the Melbourne International Airport in Orlando on Thursday morning with the intention of harming himself. He had no regard for the possibility of injuring anyone else, US judge Rhonda Babb heard when he had a hearing on Friday. Sankat, a student at the Florida Institute of Technology (FIT) where he is studying aviation management, is charged with unarmed burglary of an occupied conveyance, trespassing and grand theft of the aircraft. He will appear in court on October 18 for trial. He is a graduate of Hillview College, Tunapuna.
“Nishal went to good schools, had good grades, had the love and support of family and friends and still, something was missing for him that brought him to this point.
“None of us are exempt. All of us have a part to play in breaking the stigma of mental health and wellness and making it comfortable for persons who need help, to seek it,” Garcia said.
The minister said his ministry offers help to students through the Student Support Services Division with social workers and guidance counsellors. Employees can access the employee assistance programme and for any member of the public, there are mental health and wellness centres across the country. He added that everyone should be their brother’s keeper and offer, when needed, a shoulder for some. “I am thankful that the out come of this unfortunate incident was not a different one and that I am able to give this message. I commit to working with our schools and students to get to a place in TT where we prioritise and understand mental health just as we do physical health,” Garcia said.