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Young witnesses to violence need trauma counselling - Bev Scott

Published:Wednesday | July 5, 2017 | 12:00 AMChristopher Thomas


Renowned western Jamaica-based family psychologist Dr Beverly Scott believes it is absolutely important that children who witnessed murderous incidents, such as last Friday's gun slaying of nine-year-old Kela Bailey of Hendon-Norwood in St James, should get immediate trauma counselling.

According to Scott, early intervention is needed to help the children to erase the awful memories from their minds as soon as possible, preventing long-term trauma and harmful psychological scars, which could cause them to see crime as an avenue of survival.

"Those children definitely have to get some form of trauma counselling, because they would be traumatised, and you have to get that memory out of their heads as soon as possible, or help them to cope as soon as possible," Scott told The Gleaner yesterday. "The best way to address that situation is through early trauma counselling."

In last Friday's incident, Kela was reportedly shot and killed by a 14-year-old boy at her home in Norwood, St James, in the presence of her slightly older brother, who was reportedly left badly traumatised by the incident.

"If the children who experience such incidents are not dealt with now, they are going to suffer post-traumatic stress disorder because these incidents will not leave their minds without professional help," noted Scott. "They are too young, their minds are too immature to handle and rationalise what happened."




The psychologist also noted that children who live in communities with a reputation for violence are at risk of being desensitised to violence, which might make them prone to become perpetrators in the future.

"When these children realise that things like this could happen to them, they develop a method of defending themselves. That is when victims will become perpetrators," said Scott. "They will carry knives, ice picks, and scissors to school to protect themselves, because they don't want what they see happening to others in their community to happen to them. They become hardened very early."

It should be noted that in some informal communities, children are used as 'gun bags' (the persons who are used to transport guns), as they are unlikely to be searched by the police.

They are sometimes given the duties of 'locking' (hiding) guns for adults, which gives them easy access to these weapons.

The youngster who was implicated in the killing of Kela was arrested and charged yesterday. He is slated to appear in the St James Family Court later this week.