Government and UNICEF looking at recent suicides

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Samantha Marshall, social transformation minster, is admitting that local agencies cannot independently address the “social ill” of suicide, especially amongst youth.
“It is something that is new to us now and obviously we are not prepared as we should be to handle it, so we need the support,” Marshall said.
She explained that the number of suspected suicide cases this year has prompted the government to invite the regional representative for UNICEF to Antigua to discuss what is causing the reoccurrence of these cases.
In an exclusive interview, Marshall said that the representative is recommending ways to improve the interactions with troubled youth and those in their circles.
The social transformation minister said that the agency briefly discussed adding more counsellors to the country’s primary and secondary schools. Adding that the focus is now to see how education can be involved in the plan to address suicides.
According to her, the strategies introduced will involve a collaboration between the health, education and social transformation ministries.
Marshall said that Molywn Joseph, health minister, has already met with the temporary-stationed UNICEF representative who is providing the “technical experience and giving us the necessary support [to] develop the mental part of it.”
According to her, these recommendations include what the ministries are “lacking and what needs to be put in place” for school-aged children.
She continued by saying, “it’s obvious that there are issues which are being ignored and we need to ensure that the young people are given the support that they need.”
Marshall said that often times, families “assume the child is going through a bad phase,” and this downplaying of an illness could lead to suicide.
In the most recent suspected suicide, 12-year-old Jaquez Lanier was found hanging in his Mack Pond home, and Marshall said that this was one of many incidents that pointed to the need for emotional support for youth.
She explained that the immediate response of her ministry was to provide counselling to the family members which was overseen by Alethea Byers, family and social services director, who remains in close contact with the Lanier family.

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