Families grieving the loss of loved ones, particularly in tragic circumstances such as Wednesday’s fatal accident, are being advised to be on the lookout for “sixpenny counsellors” seeking to take advantage of their period of bereavement.
Advocate for social workers George Griffith is warning that while the counselling expertise of trained social workers were being ignored, there were many out there who lacked the required training posing as counsellors, offering themselves to provide guidance during bereavement.
Griffith made specific mention of Wednesday’s accident at Boarded Hall, St George, in which 12-year-old Springer Memorial student Destiny Thompson of VineYard, St Philip was hit by an oncoming vehicle and killed while crossing a heavily trafficked intersection.
The former Barbados Family Planning Association (BFPA) executive director advised the child’s family to be cautious as they try to cope with this horrific ordeal.
“There are going to be a lot of sixpenny counsellors and therapist out there and family members must be very careful because the family is going to be vulnerable, and given the emotional state, they might fall victim to a lot of people that believe that they can do this and do that for you.
“But the reality is that this young lady has died tragically and over time the family members will come to grips with it,” he told Barbados TODAY in a telephone interview.
“Every religious group now would have people who call themselves counsellors and these are people who would quote scripture and pray, but very often they do not have the [qualification],” Griffith added.
The former BFPA boss is therefore recommending that the authorities expand the role of the more than 1,100 social workers on the island to include counselling, because they were trained to “perform their professional duties” beyond the Welfare Department, Child Care Broad and other statutory entities.
“Social workers . . . possess the comprehensive range of training at both the theoretical and the practical level that make them ideal for dealing with these situations. But we tend not to call on social workers. Some people feel they need to call on persons who set themselves up as counsellors and very often they would have done a six-month or one year programme.”
He emphasized that social workers, who had been thoroughly trained for three years, were a better option for such counselling sessions.
“[The] social worker is not going to rush to make a diagnosis on anything. The social worker is going to get the information, they are going to study and then make a diagnosis and then prescribe the treatment that is needed.
“Social workers are underestimated in Barbados, they are capable of doing a lot more but we must give them the scope,” he said.
Not only has the death of the first form student rocked her family and the community, it has also touched Chief Executive Officer of Supreme Counselling Services Shawn Clarke, who has offered his own word of counsel to the bereaved.
He said while it was difficult to accept the loss, the family should cling on to the memorable moments they shared with the child during her short lifetime.
“It really saddens a nation when a young person, 12 years old, can really be taken from us in such a manner,” he said.
“The fun moments that the family would have had . . . you try your best to concentrate on those times. It will not be easy going forward . . . but concentrate on the joys that you would have had over the last 12 years and first and foremost above everything, you need to put God first and believe that in Him all things are possible and He will see the family through.”
Clarke also appealed to road users to be vigilant in order to avoid such tragic accidents.
“Driving isn’t one things that you can just keep your eyes ahead of you. You have to be able to see both sides. You just have to be very vigilant on the roads, you have to drive for you and you have to drive for the person ahead of you, the person behind you and the pedestrian,” he said.
Thompson’s death is the ninth road fatality for the year so far, one short of the total for all of last year.