Health Ministry ramps up mental-health care for children, teens

Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh - File photo by Angelo Marcelle
Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh - File photo by Angelo Marcelle

THE Ministry of Health has taken steps to ramp up mental-health care for children and adolescents.

Responding to questions in the Senate on March 19, Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh said among the measures were plans to expand child-guidance clinics from the South and North Western Regional Health Authorities to all in Trinidad.

"This will enable children to receive the mental-health care they need by improving accessibility, reducing wait time for appointments, facilitating early assessment, diagnosis and intervention in community settings and reducing the need for hospitalisations."

The clinics, he said, will be led by medical board-registered specialists in the field of psychiatry. He said it would also be staffed by medical officers, psychologists, psychiatric social workers, registered mental nurses, mental-health officers, creative-arts therapists, speech and language therapists and administrative staff.

He said the ministry was also working with stakeholders to develop a 24/7 youth mental-health chat line to provide children and adolescents with remote mental-health services.

He said the FindCareTT website repository of free mental-health services was being expanded to focus on the demographic.

Additionally, the minister said plans were already in motion to address mental health within the school setting.

He said last month, the Health Ministry, the Ministry of Education and the Pan American Health Organisation hosted a "train the trainer" session to bolster the skills of education and health professionals in a school mental-health literacy project.

"This will be implemented in school districts across Trinidad and Tobago. The aim of this school-based mental-health intervention is to equip principals, teachers, parents and all other stakeholders in the school setting, including the security guards, to look for the distress signs and symptoms of mental-health disorders in youth and manage, where necessary, in the school setting."

Deyalsingh said the initiative would help increase awareness of child mental-health issues and help in combating stigma associated with it and aid in early detection.

He said the initiative would be implemented in the last quarter of 2024.

Underscoring the critical need to address mental health in younger people, Deyalsingh said data from the FindCareTT website showed that of 61,543 hits on the site between January 2021 and March 2024, 61 per cent were from people between 18 and 34 years old.

He said the site's top three searches were for addiction support, suicide prevention and gender-based violence.


"Health Ministry ramps up mental-health care for children, teens"

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