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Dec 4, 2018

MOH Launches School Mental Health Literacy Project Training

The Ministry of Health kicked off its Mental School Health Literacy project. A training of trainers’ three-day workshop, in partnership with PAHO and the Ministry of Education, aims to help schools better address youth mental health in an efficient, effective and inexpensive way. The plan is to train other teachers to implement the programme at the start of the 2019 school year. The regional initiative, which includes Guatemala, is reporting significant successes. It will be target twelve to seventeen-year-olds in high-schools in Belize. News Five’s Andrea Polanco reports.


Eleanor Bennett, Coordinator of National Mental Health Program, Ministry of Health

“A significant percentage, I think up to seventy percent of mental health disorders are diagnosed before the age of twenty-five and about half of that are diagnosed in youths, in adolescents.”


Andrea Polanco, Reporting

And in Belize, adolescents are experiencing a range of mental health illnesses and disorders; from depression to anxiety.


Eleanor Bennett

“The adolescent age is time of a lot of changes that happen and sometimes it is difficult. There are a lot of relationship issues among adolescents and their parents and it all centers around the changes that adolescents are going through. So, we are seeing children attempting suicide. We know that some died by suicide. We know that there is depression among children. What our statistics are showing why children are accessing mental health services for more than any other disorder is for anxiety. But this is an age of anxiousness for this age group and so we are concerned about the health of adolescents.”


And so the adolescence years are important for mental health promotion, prevention, early identification and intervention.  And that is why the Ministry of Health has embarked on a “School Mental Health Literacy” programme which will be implemented in high schools to target twelve to seventeen-year-olds and will be implemented in six lessons through the curriculum life skills course at schools.


Eleanor Bennett

Eleanor Bennett

“The aim of this project is to equip teachers with the knowledge – sufficient mental health knowledge; identify students that have mental health problems; help decrease stigma around mental health illness and to refer students to the appropriate and effective help and to also help themselves with their own mental health.”


Today, fifteen participants from Ministries of Health and Education, including teachers and counselors, are being trained in how to deliver the “School Mental Health Literacy” programme. They will in turn train other educators and professionals in the school system. According to Professor Stan Kutcher, the facilitator of the programme, they have seen marked results in other countries.


Stan Kutcher

Dr. Stan Kutcher, Professor and Facilitator of School Mental Health Literacy

“We find that knowledge about mental health and mental illness improve substantively and sustained over time. But also for both students and teachers and families of teachers, there is a decrease in stigma. In that decrease, people are more willing to seek help when they need it and not to be unhappy and not to be negative to other people who have it. So, that peer-to-peer support and communities change how they view mental illness and they become more supportive instead of ostracizing. And help seeking efficacy – knowing how and when to seek help improves as well, so that people seek help when they need it and not when they don’t need it. And they also know where to go when they seek the help they need.”


The core trainers are also required to complement their face-to-face trainings with online courses. Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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