The counsellor added that because mental illnesses could start as early as the preteen years and many people did not know the signs or the symptoms.
Reacting to the rising rate of suicides among youths, a counsellor, Ms Chinelo Nkennor, has said the power to put an end to suicides, in both young and old, lies with schools embracing 21st-century guidance and counseling methods.
She also said the time had come for parents to focus more on communicating with their children, just as school counsellors needed to go beyond career and academics guidance.
Nkennor, who is the Head of Counselling Services at Greensprings School, disclosed that children, who were sexually abused, had a tendency to feel guilty, which could lead to all sorts of expressions in trying to escape the traumatic experience.
The counselor, in an interview with a Punch correspondent on Tuesday, said, “The traumatic experience could result in substance abuse, depression and suicide. Different people express emotions in different ways. We see more of it when there are issues in the family, like divorce, conflict in the family, domestic violence. These make the children blame themselves and become very depressed.
“In addition, because of absent-parenting, when children are faced with crises, they do not know how to manage it because the people who were supposed to guide them were absent.
“These feelings can begin to manifest in their academic work. A child that has been abused cannot do well academically because the abuse would be eating up the child. Emotional sickness is worse than physical illness. Many people are emotionally wounded but no one sees it until it manifests in ‘bad’ behaviour. Until the person’s emotional injury is sufficiently treated, he or she cannot function fully in the society.”
The counsellor added that because mental illnesses could start as early as the preteen years and many people did not know the signs or the symptoms, it often went unnoticed. She also attributed the rising rate of depression and suicides to the advent of the social media.
On the need to maintain good mental health in children, Nkennor advised, “Parents should listen more, be open-minded, be slow to judge others and provide solutions. Do not try to treat the behaviour; rather get to the root of the thought feeding the behaviour. You can alter their negative thought pattern by interacting with the child.
“Through play, children can be more equipped to withstand the pressure of life. Allow children to experience life. Saying no to them does not make you a bad parent. It is not wrong for a child to feel bad when you don’t let them have what they want. They need self-control and that comes when a parent says no.
“Parents have to give children the ability to withstand peer-pressure by involving them in tasks around the house to enable them to become more responsible. Being involved gives them a sense of self-worth. Those little things are put together to form the whole child. A child can win points and win things that would motivate them after doing something well. Look at what the child values at that point in life and use it as an incentive to reward the child,” she submitted.