June 8, 2002
Articles on crime
Traumatised. Say the word out loud and a picture appears in the mind's eye. A picture of wounded eyes, a face full of fear or hurt, a trembling body. Crises beget trauma and recently Guyanese have been beset by crises. People going about their daily business have suddenly found themselves in situations so horrible that they wished they could wake up and find they were not real. Murders, robberies, fatal accidents and fires have traumatised family and relatives of victims and witnesses to them.
It appears on the surface that Guyanese are unaffected by these events. However, the reality is that the lack of support mechanisms has seen trauma victims move into a sort of auto pilot in an effort to cope. Ask though, how many still feel safe at work, how many sleep deeply at night, and witness the effect of any loud cracking sound, like a car backfiring, for an idea of how terrified we have become.
No one expects the current events to continue forever. In fact, measures announced by the army on Thursday finally hold out some hope that we could see a decrease in these incidents. Fine. But at the same time, some thought must be spared for those among us who have been disempowered by crime and tragedy - especially the children.
Who can forget the tear-stained face of the son of Ramdeo and Sita Persaud after they were murdered on the day before Mother's Day? Or the bewilderment on the faces of Shaka Blair's sons? Who cares about the mental state of Ramnauth Persaud's wife and children? Or his co-workers? And what of the policemen at Alberttown whose very lives must have flashed before their eyes during last Thursday night's siege, when they lost one of their own?
A crisis has been defined as any situation where the demand on the individual exceeds his or her capacity to cope. This has clearly occurred in all of the instances above as well as in countless others. It will continue to occur. And while there are outpourings of concern and sympathy, professional help in dealing with what is cataclysmic to the mental and emotional well-being of these people is being ignored.
Mental wellness has not been given the prominence it should have. And Guyana is fast becoming a society of dysfunctional people and victims. Intervention and empowerment are critical and must be provided. The ideal would be to have trained social workers and counsellors work along with the police. However, at the very least, the police ought to be able to refer persons to organisations and help lines; these could also be made available through the media. The police, who experience crises on a daily basis, must also have access to these services.
The time is ripe also for an extension in the mandate of the Guyana Relief Council, where relief would not only entail donations and handouts of tangibles to persons who suffer loss through fire, flood and storms, but would encompass dealing with grief and lending solace. The council is primed to respond to disaster. It needs only to upgrade its response time and to get volunteer counsellors and social workers on board. These can be based in any area/region and could perhaps be coordinated by the Civil Defence Commission, which would liaise with the relief council. This way, moral and emotional support would be the first phase of relief offered as they should be.