A Mental Health Guide for Counsellors

Basseterre, St. Kitts, May 15, 2014 (SKNIS): The Ministry of Education is undertaking a system-wide program of training for 29 guidance counsellors in St. Kitts and Nevis to ensure that they are better equipped to respond to mental health issues among primary and secondary school students.

Dr. Jeff Menzise and Counsellors
Dr. Jeff Menzise and Counsellors

The retreat and training sessions, which started on May 12 at NIRVANA Restaurant at the Fairview Great House, is aimed at assisting counsellors in understanding, planning, developing and dealing with issues involving students’ psycho-social wellbeing, programs of intervention, and will speak to issues of risky and/or self-harming behaviour.

Some of the objectives of the programme are to help counsellors recognize their full potential as professionals in counselling, share and impart basic knowledge and principles of counselling, especially in crisis intervention, and brief intervention therapeutic strategies. The programme also includes building skills and imparting knowledge that will make counsellors more confident and prepared in dealing with crisis issues and conflicts and training counsellors to become effective practitioners in the planning, developing, and management of a guidance counselling department.

The facilitator is Dr. Jeff Menzise out of the United States; a child psychologist who is trained in clinical psychology.

“Anybody who’s a counsellor or anybody who is working directly with the youth of a nation, are saying that they are volunteering, they have stepped up to help the future generation or actually the future of that nation,” Dr. Menzise stated. “…They’ve been tasked with helping the emotional and social, psychological wellbeing of the children of St. Kitts and Nevis. It speaks a lot about the concern, the dedication and the devotion the Ministry of Education has for the wellbeing of the youth that they are here to take care of. “It’s a phenomenal step in the right direction.”

Psychologist and Senior Education Officer Tricia Esdaille stated that the programme will reassure the Ministry that their counsellors are equipped and ready to serve the children.

“One of the things that we want to have confidence in is the ability for all personnel who work within the schools to meet the needs of the children,” she stated. “One of the things we have to have some concern and care about is that if we refer a child for counselling in the school system, the person with whom they are interacting with, has the skills necessary to either work with them or to identify what it is they need and liaise with someone to work with that child.”

Nevisian counsellors Tanika Liburd and Allison Hill gave their views on the programme.

“It’s the Nevis and St. Kitts counsellors together,” stated Ms. Hill. “We don’t usually have time to come together as a unit to sit down, meet, talk and interact to share our thoughts about what’s going on and help each other in areas we are having difficulties with. I like the fact that we had this, this week because we had a chance to meet with a lot of new counsellors and to bounce ideas off of them with the help of Dr. Menzise.

“We all know that it is important for us to have our own mental health at a level where we could be helpful. If we aren’t mentally healthy, then we can’t insist the children to be mentally healthy. It’s a holistic approach,” stated Ms. Liburd.

The sessions will conclude on May 16 where the participants will receive a certificate of completion to show that they have developed the necessary skills to better help the children of the Federation.

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