Sun | Jun 25, 2017

Suzette's fight for survival ... 'I don’t want another family to be going through what I am going through'

Published:Monday | April 27, 2015 | 4:00 AMNadine Wilson-Harris
Suzette Morais
A little girl looks at the burnt out house where Suzette Morais lost her three children last month.
Syletta Harding, (right) is conforted by a friend as she mourns the death of Suzette Morais' three children. Harding was an aunt to the nine-year-old.
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Suzette Morais is currently receiving psychiatric counselling at the hospital bi-weekly and admits that it's only the desire to be around for her surviving children that is keeping her sane. She eventually got her mentally ill son into Bellevue, but hospital administrators called her a day later to take him home.

He is now being cared for by a woman in the community, but he spends most of his days roaming the streets.

Morais is the mother of nine-year-old Abigail Reid, 15-year-old Leonardo Morris, and 18-year-old Bebeto Harris, who died last month after their house in Hopeful Village, was doused with gas and set ablaze.

"In Hopefull Village, it's more than one death that happened by a mental person," said the mother who recalls a mentally ill man stabbing his mother to death in the area some years ago.

"They are telling you that the mentally ill persons must live with you, but it's a danger," said Morais. She noted that the hospital only admitted her son after pleas from the police officers who took him there.

Senior Superintendent of Police Steve McGregor, who was responsible for the West Kingston Division prior to being transferred to St James recently, confirmed that he was instrumental in getting Morais's son admitted at the mental health institution.

"We thought that they would have kept him because he is ill, but we don't know their policy and by how or what means they keep people," said McGregor.

He said he had heard about Morais's court case and had initially formulated an impression of her, which quickly changed once he spoke to her and did his own background checks.

"I really emphasise with her and I saw her as a good person," he said. "You could see that she really loves those children."

According to McGregor, after getting to know Morais more, he sought to get assistance to build a house for her and her remaining children. Several companies had made pledges to help, however, he said her project was turned over to other individuals when he was transferred and the interest waned thereafter.

Morais is currently staying at the home of a friend who is travelling overseas, while her youngest child is in the custody of her eldest daughter and her husband. Both children have not been doing well academically since the death of their siblings, however, they are getting counselling.

"They are trying to be strong for me, so they don't really talk about it, they just tell me that they love me," she said.

 

SUICIDAL THOUGHTS

 

"My friend is not here right now, and when nobody is here, my mind is just telling me kill yourself; take the pills them in your bag. I would just try to fight it and say 'I know that Jesus loves me, and he knows best, and he would not want me to," said Morais who is taking medication for hypertension, depression and insomnia.

"It's just hard, it's hard, it's hard," sobbed the mother who was baptised two weeks ago.

Despite her emotional struggles, the mother still has to journey from St Catherine to the Duhaney Park Police Station every Monday, Wednesday and Friday in keeping with her bail bond.

Although she is now living alone, the memories of her children are a constant companion. Her eldest daughter has always been the champion of the family and has set the trend for her other siblings.

Although her mentally ill son was not very good at academics, he still made his mother proud and was admitted to a Corporate Area school because he was very good at cheerleading and dancing prior his mental problems.

"Even when war going on in Jungle (Arnett Gardens) and we had to lock off the light, I would light the lamp, and she (eldest daughter) would be in the dark studying until after four, and sometimes I would have to tell her to go sleep or take an half hour," the mother shared.

"Bebeto, for an 18-year-old growing in the ghetto, he could have taken other means and he didn't. He was well-mannered. He never disrespected me. He always listened to me. At the end of our conversation, he always said, mommy I love you," she said.

She smiled for the first time as she remembered Abigail, her baby. "When I talk to Abigail, she would tell me what everybody else is doing, but not herself," she said.

Abigail's father, Lloyd Reid, also praised Morais for being a good mother to his daughter, although his relationship with her ended more than four years ago. Being her neighbour, he witnessed her loving ministrations first hand.

"Mi no pick up for people, but a five year me and her deh, so I know how she stay. When it comes on to her pickney, she very good," he said.

"You see all when she no deh deh, they go school straight same way. Straight," he added.

Fortunately, Morais's 12-year-old daughter would sleep at her paternal grandmother's house at nights and so escaped the fate which met her other siblings. However, the mother still agonises over the fact that she had not given into Leonardo's pleas to stay with her after their meet-up downtown less that 12 hours before he died.

 

DIFFICULT ORDEAL

 

"The same Thursday that he died, he was with me and he said he wanted to stay with me and I said, 'remember that you are going to see me Friday, so I don't want you on the road too late in your uniform', and he left. I did talk to Bebeto and Abigail in the night on the phone and him did say he has some SBA's (school-based assessment) and I did send the Internet up there," she said.

She said she has not seen her brother since he arrived at the hospital.

"To tell you the truth, I forgive him from it happen. It hard, but at the same time, he is my brother and I love him, and I know he is sick with him head," said Morais who broke down in tears again.

Morais said she has spoken to a member of the mental-health team on more than one occasion in recent weeks, begging for her son to be visited and given treatment since he is getting violent again. But despite promises that they will pay him a home visit, no one had visited him up to last Tuesday.

"I need the Government to take more responsibility for mental-care issues. I don't want another family to be going through what I am going through right now," said Morais.