Concerns raised over impact of racist comments on youngsters’ mental health

Police officers in protective clothing against possible coronavirus infection tag a child migrant on a military ship after arriving in Senglea in Valletta’s Grand Harbour, Malta March 15, 2020. REUTERS/Darrin Zammit Lupi

The Maltese branch of the Association for Child and Adolescent Mental Health (ACAMH) has expressed grave concerns over the language expressed by some Maltese on social media with regards to the recent stranding of a migrant vessel close to our shores.

In a statement published on Tuesday, the Association has condemned the way in which these migrants were left abandoned at sea for days, causing them severe physical and psychological distress, and leading to the death of a number of migrants, while others’ whereabouts remain unknown.

ACAMH has also condemned the racist comments made by public officials and the general public alike, where people described those stranded at sea as an unwanted burden or a potential public health hazard.

“By refusing to help those in need, and by propagating a discourse which is stereotypical, xenophobic and demeaning towards members of other ethnicities, we are inadvertently influencing our younger generations’ perspectives towards cultural diversity” – said the Association for Child and Adolescent Mental Health.

The Association which encompasses the views of a diverse range of health professionals, including psychiatrists, paediatricians, mental health nurses, psychologists, social workers, speech and occupational therapists, working with children and adolescents, said that if us Maltese are to set an example for our children, we should aim to be compassionate towards those in need, regardless of their wealth, social status or origin.

They explained that our national heritage includes historical episodes where the Maltese welcomed those in need: from the biblical episode of St Paul’s shipwreck, celebrated as anational and religious holiday by many, to Malta’s role at offering hospice care in the Middle Ages, and down to Malta being referred to as the “Nurse of the Mediterranean.”

These historical instances shed light into the disposition of our forefathers to help those in need, even at times when Malta itself was plunged into poverty and war stated the Association for Child and Adolescent Mental Health.