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Child rights activist Diana Mahabir-Wyatt says she is not surprised that troubled children as young as seven and eight are contemplating suicide.
In fact, Mahabir-Wyatt said she had encountered cases where five-year-olds have said that they “wanted to die.”
Her statements followed comments made by Mary Moonan, programme coordinator of Childline who said that suicidal thoughts in young children were becoming an emerging trend and identified a lack of support within the home as a core reason.
Interviewed, Mahabir-Wyatt said, “This is not new. I have known children as young as five and six who have said that they don’t want to live any more usually because of problems at home.”
She said mostly people like teachers who children frequently interacted with were the ones to pick up warning signs.
“But there is very little to reach out to a five-year-old unless you have a means of contacting the child. Traditionally, what we depended on was for kindergarten and school teachers to be sensitive enough to understand when a child is in trouble,” Mahabir-Wyatt said.
But one challenge, she said, was there were no trained teachers at pre-schools who had the kind of emotional intelligence required to detect such problems.
“What we have recommended for years was that government supply free pre-schooling with trained teachers because a lot of pre-schools are set up by people who are not trained at all,” Mahabir-Wyatt said.
Echoing her sentiments was Dr Varma Deyalsingh, secretary of the Association of Psychiatrists of T&T, who agreed that this was worrying. He said the worldwide trend tend to show that suicides were committed from age 15, the third highest age group.
“But we see that the younger age group now are facing challenges and are unable to cope and are lacking the coping skills. This was a trend we are seeing globally,” Deyalsingh said.
He said even though parents were working children must be involved in after school activities, perhaps at the schools themselves so as to ensure proper supervision.
“This could be done probably by OJTs. But in cases where children are sexually abused or going through some level of poverty there is despair and those children tend to internalise and they also want to harm themselves...they want to cut themselves,”Deyalsingh said.
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