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Hotline to lend mental health assistance

By Anesta Henry

In response to the recent spate of alleged suicides on the island, Minister of Youth, Sports, and Community Empowerment Charles Griffith has announced that by the end of the month, a hotline will be open for young people to call for help.

He told Barbados TODAY the 24-hour hotline will be managed by his ministry.

“This is a concern for me, and it is always a concern for the Government. What it is doing is making it known that mental health is a real and serious issue on the island and we are doing all that is necessary to try to protect our young people.

“One of the things I have coming on stream is a youth hotline that should be launched very soon, and it is expected that this will provide an opportunity for people to call the hotline if there is an issue….It is expected that by the end of the month, it will be up and running. We have trained counsellors who will be at the other end and I believe that this is something that can help as it relates to the issues that [young people] are going through,” Griffith said.

Speaking on the matter which has dominated public discussion in recent days, Griffith said it was also necessary for non-governmental organisations, including churches embedded within communities, to take the lead and conduct outreach programmes to investigate what was happening with the youth.

“And if we can have that, then I think we could go a long way in stemming some of the problems that our young people are facing and facing alone. Oftentimes, we do not know that they are walking through some fires, some serious fires, and no one is there to hold their hand; there is no firewall.

“Government is committed to try and find those firewalls that would allow them to regain some sense of stability in their life. It is a lot, but we would do whatever is possible to ensure that we have a positive young person that is confident and who can withstand all of the shocks that would come at them,” he said.

On Thursday, Minister of State in the Ministry of Health and Wellness Dr Sonia Browne gave the assurance that plans were in the works to make treatment for mental health issues more accessible and to educate Barbadians on identifying and reporting situations where help is needed.

Griffith added that youth commissioners attached to his ministry have also been implementing initiatives to reach out to the youth.

The ministry launched a mentorship programme earlier this year to address some of the issues affecting young people.

“We have probably in excess of 50 mentors and mentees, and we are hoping that the public can come forward and provide that mentorship service. We have vetted all of those persons who are coming to be mentors. There is a need for this on the island,” Griffith said.

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