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Mental Health Series

Addressing bullying in schools

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I came across a news story online from ABC News that a nine year old boy committed suicide following bullying. The boy had disclosed being gay which culminated in him being bullied by fellow schoolmates. The central point of today’s discussion is bullying and its ramifications.

Have you seen kids refusing to head for classes for lame reasons? They could be experiencing bullying. Bullying is a phenomena that is rampant in our schools. It is a destructive and deliberate pattern of humiliating and harming others whom are vulnerable. The act of bullying happens consistently with victims most of the time being helpless to fight.

Those who bully can do it in so many ways that include;
Kids being punched
Their things being spoiled
Kids being teased
Nasty rumours spread about the victim
Victims being threatened
Victims being coerced to bring gifts

According to one study, those whom are bullied are at an increased risk for mental health problems, headaches, and problems adjusting to school. Others maybe sad and lonely and have tendencies of absconding from or being anxious when summoned to go to school. The commonest mental health problems include depression, parasuicide, conversion disorders and substance use disorders. A long term damage to self-esteem is possible in these circumstances.

Dealing with a child who is being bullied is difficult. Parents and guardians should avoid at all costs to blame the child for being bullied. Active listening is a basic tenet to help the child. A child who is bullied often finds it difficult to tell people thereby it is important to listen and try to address the issue.

Our school system need to have anti-bullying programmes and also employ resident mental health professionals to address this problem. As Michelle Obama once said, “we explain when someone is cruel or ac ts like a bully, you do not stoop to their level.” Let’s address this!

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Mental Health Series

Promoting mental health of the judiciary employees

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We always take workplace mental health issues universally but I would like to highlight that those working in the judiciary be it, Judges, Magistrates and court clerks, have peculiar conditions. I recently presented on the matter at Lobatse Magistrate Court wellness day and will share for the benefit of others.

Individuals under the judiciary employ play a critical role in Botswana mental health system. The Master of High Court appoints a curator bonis (trustee) to look into the custody of a mentally incapacitated individual whom cannot take decisions for self.

But how do the dynamics of their work affect their mental health? How can their mental health be promoted in the workplace?Judges, Magistrates and Court clerks preside over horrific criminal trials.

During trials they may be shown graphic images of the incident whilst at the same time there is narration! As highlighted in previous articles, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) may develop after hearing of a horrific accident or simply seeing images.

Various researches have indicated that many judiciary employees experience flashbacks of the incidents as they were narrated in court.Those working in courts may receive verbal onslaught from those being tried and their families.

A case in point is “Le tla immentioner” episode whereupon the Magistrate was attacked. Those experiencing this trauma may develop depression. Some may come up with maladaptive coping methods like indulging in substance use ultimately developing substance use and addiction disorders.

Judges and Magistrates are the custodians of justice and may experience stress when making judgements. They try by all means not to make erroneous judgements which exposes them to intense mental health exhaustion.

It is very important to highlight that mental health services should also be provided to them. Some of the following can be of help;Debriefing should be done after highly toxic court cases that are emotionally draining.

Health retreats should be plannedDepression and substance use screening to identify those having problems and then assist.

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Mental Health Series

‘A resource letter to a caregiver’

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In view of this year Mental Health Day theme “ Young People and Mental health in a changing world”, one reader appealed to me to talk to parents whom have youthful children diagnosed with mental illness.

Dear Parents;
I must applaud you for acknowledging that indeed there is an issue to be addressed. Indeed the caregiving role comes with many challenges that include neglect of own needs as well stigma and discrimination meted out by our society.

Mental illnesses can affect anyone in our society; including youth. According to the World Health Organisation, 10-20% of children and adolescents experience mental disorders. Neuropsychiatric disorders are seen as the leading cause of disability in the young generation. Youth are not immune from mental illnesses!

Do not at all blame yourself for the situation your child is facing. It is scientifically proven that mental illnesses are caused by a combination of factors that include environmental and genetics. There are a lot of challenges faced by the youth that facilitate the development of mental illness and/or problems.

In spite of all this, there should be concerted focus on family. A family is a system and efforts should be made to allow interconnectedness that has often taken the family forward. To ensure a productivity on the side of patient, remove restrictions and allow utmost interactions with others socially.

Always give support to your child to take medication. Medication helps a lot in stabilising patient allowing for optimal functioning. Taking medications also helps mitigate against the development of chronicity of illness.

You are bound to hear conspiracy theories and myths surrounding the child illness. Inform yourself and also seek information from mental health professionals and refrain from information that can compound the problem even further.

Go for time out and debriefing sessions to recharge batteries of care giving. Individual counselling can also help if overwhelmed by the situation to the extent of affecting daily functioning.
As posited by Robert Ingersoll, “we rise by lifting others.” Thank you.

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