Something I have learned now that I am 14 years old, is that it is not only adults that can have problems or mental health issues. Yes, children can have mental health issues when it comes on to stress and school and so forth.
There is one incident when I was at school. There was a girl in my class, and every day she would just come to school looking tired, saying she didn’t get much sleep at night. So, one time she was in class doing her work and the teacher gave some work, and she just had a breakdown right in front of everyone.
She fell on the floor and started crying and screaming, saying that she is exhausted with life and tired of it.
Incident left students distressed but was not discussed
They took her to the guidance counsellor and sat with her for a while and then called her parents. I don’t know what happened after. There was no discussion in class about it. I was just in shock about it.
The teachers could have at least talked about what happened as all the students were distressed about what happened. But they did not talk about it. They went about like nothing happened.
It has left a lasting impression on me. Thankfully, that student is now back to her usual self.
Increase awareness about mental health in schools
What I would really like to advocate for is people being able to understand what’s really going on. Lots of people don’t really understand that sometimes things can become overwhelming especially at school as well. I just want people to understand that school is not all simple as they think. It is a lot harder as well.
I would like for there to be classes where you can learn about mental health and the effects of it and how you can cope with it.
How I cope with challenges to my mental health
One thing that works very well for me is sitting down and listening to music that relaxes the mind. I mainly listen to music when I am upset, not when I am overwhelmed. When I am overwhelmed, I have people I can talk with like my Grandma.
She tells me everything will be okay, and she just talks to the Lord, and He will sort things out. It is nice to have the view of an adult sometimes when you are going through things because they can really help you, being that they are older and have a lot more knowledge. She is telling me from the heart – I can tell by the expressions she uses, and she speaks with a soft tone.
Postscript from Keino’s grandmother:
Keino’s grandmother Gloria Green Sharpe assists in the care of her five grandchildren, including 14-year-old Keino, whose father (her son) sadly died from COVID-19. She describes her grandchildren as “five brilliant and outstanding children”. She says, “It is rough, and it is not easy to go up the rough side of the mountain. I love them and I believe they love me.” She stressed the need to be observant and to treat children with love, speak softly to them and show kindness.
What’s UNICEF doing?
UNICEF Jamaica is working with young people to bring attention to the need for improved mental health support and care for children and adolescents. One of our critical initiatives is the U-Matter Chatline. It is provided free by UNICEF’s U-Report messaging service for youth, connecting users aged 16-24 years to chat anonymously and confidentially with trained counsellors. To access help, young people are encouraged to message the word SUPPORT to 876-838-4897 on WhatsApp or with free SMS for Flow customers; or @ureportjamaica on Instagram and Facebook Messenger. Together with the Ministry of Health and Wellness, U-Matter chatline has provided more than 2,000 sessions with trained counsellors.
We are also working with education partners to not only bring attention to the need for improved mental health support and care for children and adolescents, but to provide usable and useful strategies to do so. These include support for the development of courses like Return to Happiness, the roll out of the student-centred, emotionally supportive School-Wide Positive Behaviour Intervention and Support (SWPBIS) framework, the National College for Educational Leadership’s (NCEL)’s Child Friendly Schools course (CFS) and its Leadership for Safer Schools (LSS) Programme.