Placement of counsellors in schools

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Dear Editor
THE University of Guyana is set to launch its Diploma in Psychology on February 24. The Caribbean Voice (TCV) notes that tuition costs are $250,000 plus facilities fee of $50,000, application fee of $1000 and other possible fees, with fees also subject to change. TCV has been at the forefront of calls to bring back the Diploma in Psychology that was first offered in the 1970s. Even though UG had indicated to TCV that it has no record of this

programme, we did confirm its existence with a number of then graduates who provided details of the programme and indicated that they still have their certificates. Now we sincerely hope that the government has provided assurances of employment to encourage students to register, as repaying that kind of student loan will be a disincentive. We also hope that the government has facilitated the enrolment of current teachers as was done previously.

However, even as we await this first batch of graduates, the public has not been informed whether that batch of 30 who graduated in December with Diplomas in Psychology from the American University of Peace Studies, has already been placed in public schools. If they are still struggling to find jobs, then anyone desirous of enrolling in the UG programme may have second and third thoughts. As well, the public would wonder about the government’s seriousness with respect to the mental well-being of the nation’s students, especially given that arguments that trained personnel are not available and that government cannot afford to train such personnel, are no longer valid. Besides, it is to be noted that some private schools already have counsellors on staff.

Meanwhile, NGOs (including The Caribbean Voice) that have been working with teachers and students, are deluged with cries for help to deal with a range of issues currently impacting the teaching/learning dynamics on a daily basis. These include depression, anxiety, low self-esteem and self-confidence, lack of coping skills, increasing use of drugs and alcohol, increasing sexual permissiveness fuelling the rising teenage pregnancy rate, bullying, including cyber bullying, self-harm, especially cutting, various learning disabilities and increasing overall violence.
The fact is that research clearly shows that better academic and behavioural outcomes result when mental health problems are identified and addressed early. On the other hand, students struggling with depression or other mental illnesses have a harder time feeling motivated, learning, concentrating, taking tests, and so on.

Also, it is to be noted that boys, especially those at the lower socio-economic levels, are likely to be both victims and perpetrators of the negative behaviour that flow from untreated mental problems. In a study on Jamaica, Dr. Herbert Gayle, University of West Indies (Mona Campus), social anthropologist, found that boys are three times more likely than girls to be beaten in homes; they account for up to 95 per cent of the child victims of violence, including murder; are more likely than girls to be neglected by fathers; and in up to a quarter of working-class and inner-city homes, are expected to hustle to help boost the family income. These findings may very well be accurate for Guyana (and other Caribbean nations) as borne out by empirical evidence.

In effect, the government cannot afford not to invest in the mental health of our young. This investment starts with the placement of counsellors in schools. As well, TCV urges the establishment of an annual Mental Heath Awareness Day in all schools as a way of bringing parents into the mental health care process and establishing partnerships between schools and other stakeholders in mental health care.
Regards
The Caribbean Voice