The increased incidence of sudden death, death by fire and mass casualty events has pointed to the need for organised assistance in bereavement and loss.
This is the view of Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Social Care, Constituency Empowerment, Urban and Rural Development, Sonja Welch, who sees the Bereavement Support Services offered by the National Assistance Board as “a most important and highly valued service”.
“Statistics bear out the need for organised assistance in bereavement and loss. For example,” she pointed out, “it has been noted that during the year 2007 – 2008, there has been an increase in sudden deaths – from eight in 2005 – 2006 to twenty-eight in 2007 – 2008. In deaths by fire there was also an increase from six in 2005 – 2006 to twenty-one in 2007 – 2008,” Ms. Welch told a Bereavement Seminar yesterday entitled: “Specific Issues and Loss: Breaking Bad News” organised by the National Assistance Board’s Bereavement Support Services.
“These comparative statistics have revealed that there is indeed a growing demand for the Bereavement Support Services for individuals one-to-one as well as for group support for persons who have encountered loss,” she observed.
Citing the mass casualty incident at Joe’s River and the Arch Cot tragedy last year, Ms. Welch contended: “Loss at the individual level is challenging, but usually there is the possibility of even a small circle of persons being available to assist. However, when loss is at a mass or group level, such as in mass casualties or mass redundancies, additional resources are required, often at short notice and in abundant supply. This is where organised support at the institutional level is critical,” she underlined.
Lauding the Bereavement Support Services for its 16 years of service in providing a support system for families who have suffered various types of loss, the Permanent Secretary said, to date, 27 Bereavement Cell/Support Groups had been established throughout the island, with over 2,500 persons being trained to “listen” as they cared for the bereaved.
She also cited two satellite programmes, one within the Ministry of Education for children who are bereaved, and the other in the Queen Elizabeth Hospital for families whose loved ones die suddenly, and the provision of yearly seminars and workshops for target groups as among the unit’s services.
Reiterating Government’s commitment to the total health of its citizens, Ms. Welch said: “We believe that it is not only the financial welfare needs with which a nation should be concerned, but the mental and spiritual well-being and the brother’s-keeper philosophy must be entrenched.”
In giving an overview of the seminar, Communications Specialist, Dr. Gary Ellis, challenged participants from the Royal Barbados Police Force, the Barbados Coast Guard, the Barbados Fire Service and the Forensic Laboratory, among others, to serve their clients better and to treat them with utmost respect.
“The challenge, no matter what service you are in, is to treat criminals…victims, survivors with respect. You do not know what impact you can have on their lives. Everyone out there can be one of your loved ones,” he implored.