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Apr 25, 2018

The High Cost of Crime to Children

A primary finding of the Metamorphosis Project is that it is important to understand how childhood experiences have a long-term impact on child development, even into adulthood. The trauma of losing loved ones to either gun or domestic violence, or run-ins with the police or other issues lead to poorer educational performance and reduced ability to make decisions. Poor mental health due to trauma, according to Jenny Lovell, is not only an issue for children but adults as well, and Belize is poorly equipped to handle it. But first, she pointed out, we must recognize it.

 

Jenny Lovell

Jenny Lovell, Mental Health Therapist (Retired)

“Let’s go back to when the child is born. If the mother is not getting what she needs, remember that child is affected from two weeks – it’s gestational neglect. I’d better not say that. It’s neglect and it’s neglect in the community. All the unsanitary things we have talked about and the things we have seen when we go into these houses, it all contributes to the child having what is called an agitated amygdala. What is the amgydala? That’s the brain stem, what we call the reptilian brain. That reptilian brain gets triggered, because of beatings and we da wah country that believe we suppose to beat wi pikni. ‘Look how I turn out; I beat my pikni and look how dehn turn out. Dehn beat me and look at me.’ And they don’t see the damage that it’s doing to the children. The emotional abuse and the verbal abuse that the children suffer. All of these things are what our children suffer from very, very young. When the child grows up and goes to school, he goes and he’s not feeling safe already, because he already has all this stuff happen to him. He goes to school and he expects to be safe at school – you expect at school you’re going to get love and you’re going to be treated [well.] He goes there and guess what? Teacher has the same problem and teacher screams at the child, or hits the child, and the child is not getting – he doesn’t feel safe at school either. And then you have the bullies in the courtyard or the playground. So here is a child who is constantly – when I’m talking about stress, children under huge levels of stress so that these children can’t learn. It shows up as dyslexia – and then we tend to label, mental health people label: “oh, he has ADHD; oh it’s a conduct disorder; this and that” – the child gets labeled, and really and truly its trauma that started very, very early in this child’s life.”

 

According to Lovell, the stress children experience either manifests itself in manic activity or depressive, ‘checking-out’ state of mind. As part of the Metamorphosis program teachers were taught to look for signs of trauma in children and report it for diagnosis and treatment.

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