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Relatives of those killed need special attention - therapist

Published:Saturday | March 28, 2015 | 12:00 AMChristopher Thomas


Dr Beverly Scott, arguably western Jamaica's best known family therapist, is calling for special counselling to be provided for the relatives of young people whose lives are violently snuffed out.

Scott's comments were made against the background of a spate of cases of children being murdered across the island since the beginning of the year.

"When you look at the stress scale, the loss of a child is 100 per cent on the scale, so it is very difficult for the surviving relatives to cope," Scott told Western Focus in a recent interview. "For the rest of their lives, they will not be the same. They need real professionals, who know about grieving and how to get people through the grief process."

"We probably need to look at the life of the person, of the child who has died, because we need to help the survivors to get this negative memory out and put in some positive memories," continued Dr Scott. "That is why it takes a trained person, a psychologist or psychotherapist, to help them replace this negative memory with something positive about the person."

"You are talking about clinical psychologists or a clinical therapist, who can sit with them and revisit what has happened and face what has happened, because some of them (survivors) are in denial," Dr Scott added. "If someone is in denial, they could get to the phase afterwards where they just explode, they become mentally ill or are unable to live in society, and are not able to cope."

In a recent incident in St James, eight-year-old Shaya Prince, her mother, Lois Watson, her stepfather Junior Scott and family friend Kemali Walker, were all killed when gunmen invaded their Richmond Hill home.

In other incidents earlier this year, 14-year-old Frome Technical High School student Santoya Campbell, of Shrewsbury in Westmoreland met her demise at the hands of a man, who had impregnated her, and tried to cover up his carnal deeds by murdering her.

While agreeing that specialised counselling is needed for the family of those who are killed, Pastor Victor Wheatley, of the Mt Salem Open Bible Church, says therapy alone is not enough to cushion the lingering pain.

"When you talk to an individual for two or three hours' counselling and then you go back home, it is a different thing. You look at the child's bed, look at their picture, and everything comes back to you," said Pastor Wheatley, who has lost a loved one to violence.

"Professionals may help, but not totally. You are going to need other support, especially from the family and friends, who are close to you," the pastor said. "I do not think professionals alone will be enough, unless they refer you to other persons, such as persons in the church."