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Guidance counsellors, social workers and medical officials turned out in their numbers today (June 8), for the first day of an intense three-day workshop on trauma and grief management, geared towards child care professionals working in the communities of West Kingston.
The seminar, which is being held at the Alpha Boys’ Home on South Camp Road, in Kingston, is organised by the Child Development Agency (CDA), in collaboration with the Ministries of Health, and Education, and funded by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
Acting Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the CDA, Winston Bowen, said the workshop represented a collaborative approach and response to the traumatic incidents of the last few weeks, which have affected the lives of many of the young people living in West Kingston, where the Security Forces carried out operations.

Acting Chief Executive Officer of the Child Development Agency (CDA), Winston Bowen, addresses social workers and guidance counsellors attending the ‘Trauma and Grief Management Workshop’, held at the Alpha Boys’ Home on South Camp Road, in Kingston, today (June 8).

He told the child care professionals that it was critical to respond to the psycho-social and emotional needs of the children of the affected areas expeditiously, in order to offset potentially serious mental illnesses, such as chronic depression or post traumatic stress disorder.
“As we all assess our responses to the events of the last two weeks, it would be prudent for us as actors in the field of child protection, to recognise the potential of this set of events to mushroom into future challenges, if we do not now act quickly to respond to the trauma experienced by the children in these communities,” he said.
Director of Child and Adolescent Mental Health in the Ministry of Health, Dr. Judith Leiba, in her presentation, entitled ‘Introduction to the Nature of Disasters’, reminded the child care workers that some children were masters at disguising trauma and anxiety by being compliant and quiet.
She said that, often, adults around them might fail to recognise that they are suffering silently and so it was important to be vigilant in order to recognise many of the hidden signs.

Acting Chief Executive Officer of the Child Development Agency (CDA), Winston Bowen, in discussion with Director of Child and Adolescent Mental Health in the Ministry of Health, Dr. Judith Leiba, before the start of the ‘Trauma and Grief Management Workshop’ for child care professionals, held at the Alpha Boys’ Home on South Camp Road, in Kingston, today (June 8).

“Children are a unique population during times of disasters. Often, community leaders and teachers notice how wonderfully quiet children are being and are thankful, given their own level of distress. However, the inhibition of children’s normal activity is an indicator of their degree of stress,” she informed.
Dr. Leiba further pointed out that there were a number of common psycho-social and physical responses to such disasters that social workers must look for in both adults and children, such as family violence, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and major depression.
She said 10 to 30 per cent of individuals who are highly exposed to violence or life threatening situations develop PTSD. Dr. Leiba said that persons who were affected by situations, such as the one that occurred in West Kingston, might also develop long term substance abuse as a way to numb their emotions.
She said family violence and child abuse might also increase as many individuals would seek to take out their anger on their family members, especially the children who are often weak and vulnerable. “This is because there’s been so much disruption, people are at their wits end and they go off at the snap of a finger,” she said.
Meanwhile, Child Protection Specialist at UNICEF, Janet Cupidon-Quallo, said her organisation has been encouraged by the significant outpouring of support shown by a number of health, social work and child care agencies.
She also lauded the CDA and the Ministry of Health for establishing the Crisis Management Intervention Alliance, which is an organisation made up of several agencies committed to strengthening the ability of government agencies and non-governmental organisations in the child protection sector, to effectively respond to crisis impacting the lives of children, regardless of the nature of the problem.
The workshop is expected to last until Thursday, June 10, and will see presentations from a number of psychiatrists and child care professionals on topics including, ‘Grieving in Children’, ‘Stress Management’ and ‘Acute Stress Disorder’.