Sun | Feb 25, 2024

Resolving childhood trauma key to curbing violence – doctor

Published:Wednesday | February 1, 2023 | 1:05 AMAlbert Ferguson/Gleaner Writer


Much of Jamaica’s crime and violence crisis is evidence of the lingering effects of childhood trauma, a western Jamaica physician has said.

Dr Sherridene Lee, president of the Western Medical Association (WMA), has expressed optimism about the deployment of front-line community leaders tasked with helping to prevent crime and improving citizen security.

That team, through funding from the European Union under the Ministry of National Security and the Citizen Security Secretariat, is being trained in psychological first aid in order to respond to children and adolescents traumatised by crime and violence. The victims may also be referred for long-term care.

Lee said that daily in her private practice, she treats teenagers exhibiting headaches and breathing difficulties stemming from psychological defects that most parents are unable to recognise.

“Sometimes they will, saying that their child is rude, they are acting out at school, but they don’t have the skill set for them to understand that something actually is happening to their child psychologically,” the doctor said.

“I think we can solve a lot of problems if we pay special attention to this. Even in terms of schools, a child is being bullied and sometimes if the teachers don’t pick up, he may have problems learning in school,” Lee explained.

Oral Heaven, chief advocate for the local business community in St James, has thrown his support behind the psychosocial training initiative.

Jamaica recorded 1,498 murders in 2022, with St James’ 198 homicides representing 13 per cent of total killings.

“We need this intervention to be integrated, in having psychological first-aid responders in the communities to assist their peers,” Heaven, president of the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said.

“We are pleased that we are moving in the right direction to assist those youth who suffer from trauma and those adults who have to live with the result of trauma from their childhood,” he added.

Dr Patrick Prendergast, director of The University of the West Indies’ (UWI) Western Jamaica campus, said that the deployment of psychological first-aid responders into communities would empower residents in relationship building.

He said that The UWI is delighted to be part of the community engagement.

“I know that they are ready. A source told me that they are knowledgeable, they are committed, they understand the community issues, including violence and vulnerability, and they are just raring to go and show what it means to be involved in a process that is about transforming our communities,” Prendergast said.

Aniceto Rodriguez Ruiz, head of cooperation of the EU Delegation to Jamaica, Belize and The Bahamas, said that the initiative was welcomed.

“This training marks the start of strengthening the attention to victims of trauma in St James, where these services have been detected to be particularly scarce,” Ruiz said.

He added that case management and psychosocial support services are primary interventions and have shown to be effective ways in countering the cycle of violence.