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Education Minister Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly,

The effects of the COVID-19 virus and subsequent lockdown have had an adverse impact on the mental health of teachers and students in T&T.

Revealing there has been an increase in the number of teaching professionals and students accessing the Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) within recent months, an official of the Ministry of Education (MOE) yesterday also confirmed, “We have a lot mainly coming from our secondary students.”

Speaking during a briefing at the MOE, School Social Work Specialist Natalie Robinson-Arnold revealed, “It comes back to that whole adjustment of being at home, being removed from the social atmosphere that they are used to in the school system…has created a little instability in our children and basically, it is general behaviour that our parents have reached out to us about and the ability to cope with the stresses that come with COVID-19 and the adjustment to the education system.”

Education Minister Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly added, “In discussions with the EAP which provides services for the teachers, they have indicated they have seen an increase in the number of teachers accessing their services.”

She said this had been attributed to the fact that teachers are undergoing stress with the transition from a classroom setting to a virtual forum.

Gadsby-Dolly continued, “They are also saying that because teachers are at home, they feel a little more empowered to come out and get the service because they are not at school and nobody is asking them where you going and why you are going to EAP.”

The minister claimed more preventative measures were being adopted by teachers, “coming in and speaking and sorting out the issues relating to transitioning.”

Describing the deaths of two boys aged nine and 14 in the last few days, both Gadsby-Dolly and Robinson-Arnold said it was unfortunate and tragic.

In the case of both students, Robinson-Arnold said, “The students did not experience mental health issues. It is basically the use of social media.”

Indicating they would continue to sensitize students and parents about the use of social media, she added, “We have our hotlines out and we have parents who are contacting the Student Support Services Division (SSSD) via these hotline numbers, where they encounter challenges with their children, or they too are stressful and are unable to cope so they could best manage their children.”

Gadsby-Dolly said the two students had not been referred to the SSSD for assistance and the MOE was not aware of the full circumstances in each instance.

Asked to comment on the Black-Out/Pass Out Challenge popularized via Tik-Tok the minister said as parents, greater awareness had to be paid to what children were using these devices to access as what might seem like harmless fun for children, could have disastrous consequences.

Gadsby-Dolly said the MOE would also be doing its part to alert parents and teachers and guardians as to the dangers associated with online access.