By Leonard Gildarie
I was contemplating how to handle this story this week.
Last weekend, I received a call. A woman reportedly stabbed her little son and he was critical. We dispatched a reporter. What was reported shocked the hell out of me. The boy died.
I don’t know how the rest of Guyana deals with news of this kind, but over the years, I have toughened up. I do not think of it. I rarely read the details of the gore. It is how I survive.
The details of the story that emerged should make all sit up and call for more capacity in dealing with mental health.
Brenda Ferreira is 26. An Amerindian, she was said to be living with the father of her two children at their rental home at Foulis, East Coast Demerara.
He is just over 50. There were two sons- one was three and the other, a year older.
There are no explanations for what happened on that morning, two Saturdays ago. At least none made public.
What is known is that neighbours reported that they heard screams and later saw the woman, said to be pregnant, dragging a bloodied Ramdeo Mahadeo, her son, into the small home.
Police were summoned and found the boy, barely alive on a bed. He was rushed to the hospital, but there was little that the doctors could have done.
It was also reported that the other son barely escaped from what might been a similar fate.
The woman’s reputed husband, Shamlall Mahadeo, said he was mystified by the attack.
There were images of him sitting shocked, holding his other son, near a vehicle.
At the Cove and John Magistrate’s Court, the handcuffed woman was seen emerging, a blank look on her face.
There is to be an evaluation done to determine her mental condition.
Now, we are not here today to try the case in the public. The court has the authority to do so.
I saw one commentator remarking that had the attacker been a man, there would not have been much sympathy for him.
I want the court to hear this out. The mother was said to be in court while the little boy was being laid to rest.
I couldn’t help but think of the imploring, shocked eyes of little Ramdeo as he questioned what she was doing to him.
There are reports of abuse of the children. Where was the father? Did he do anything? Was he aware?
Something was off with this case. The woman reportedly lived for a short while with a close relative of the reputed husband. She later broke it off and settled with her now husband. Did alcohol play a role?
What would cause a mom to go after her offspring in such a manner?
This particular case saw an outflowing of sympathy for the situation.
They saw the little home where the couple lived. They saw her dejected, slumped shoulders. There was a photo of her sitting at a police station, with a loaf of bread on her lap and wearing a blank stare.
I asked myself if she could even comprehend the unspeakable deed that was committed.
Guyanese, generally, are a cynical people, who shrug their shoulders if you even dare suggest they take counselling or see a doctor for what is clearly a mental health issue.
There is a little boy, the other son, who witnessed the attack. What happens to him now?
Will he be counselled?
The case for more capacity to help fight mental issues could not have been more pronounced this week with another story.
A family that runs a shop at 19th Street, Diamond, was attacked by bandits.
A gun was placed to the head of a 7-year-old during the almost 45 minutes of rampage.
The family said they had to send the boy away as he was talking about the incident non-stop. We have many such cases.
Eventually, some jobs will require that the applicant submit a psychological report. I see us heading there. There are thousands of persons in Guyana who are unable to manage. They keep their feelings bottled up.
We only learn of the problems after a violent act has been committed. There are very few medical persons in Guyana who are trained in this area. Dr. Bhiro Harry is one of them. He is a highly respected professional, and from the few interactions I have had, it can be concluded that we are lucky to have him.
But Dr. Harry can only do so much. We urgently need a plan to address the issue of mental health. We have been talking so much about issues in other areas. About non-communicable diseases; about the need for exercise and a balanced diet. We have been pushing for a reduction in smoking, passing new laws.
Mental health is an issue that is here to stay. We are not crazy to ask for help in this area. It should be acceptable to say we want counselling. It should not be taboo, or a shameful thing. It is your health.
We have to find ways to place departments in each country to offer some services.
We have churches, social services organizations and other NGOs that can offer to take up the slack, offering especially counselling. We have to advertise this. This is no laughing matter. There is much work to be done.
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