Trauma treatment key to ending gang violence
Treatment for mental and physical trauma will be a key component in battling Bermuda’s gang and gun violence, the island’s gang violence reduction co-ordinator said at the weekend.
Pastor Leroy Bean said: “What we are finding is that, especially the population that I deal with, many of them express an indication that trauma has happened in their life.”
He was speaking at a special workshop for health professionals and members of the public led by Florida-based psychotherapist Revital Goodman.
Mr Bean said: “I just talked with Dr Goodman and we are looking to see if we can have a few more events to empower the various organisations and counsellors that support this kind of clientele.
“I think that it’s a key factor in stamping out this problem. One of the things that is important is that there is a clinical approach, and that has been missing.
The event at the National Sports Centre was the result of a collaboration between the Ministry of National Security and the Bermuda Counsellors’ Association to tackle some of the triggers for gang violence including neglect, abuse and the desire for retaliation.
Dr Goodman detailed the causes and effects of traumatic experiences on the human brain and the mechanisms people can use to deal with them.
She explained a trauma can be stored away and revisited long after the initial event took place, like a memory stored in a freezer.
Dr Goodman warned an experience could trigger the memory and force it out of the deep freeze.
She said: “There is an instant defrost, these memories are being pulled out of the freezer and take over the psyche again.
“All of those horrible experiences come back and the person is being retraumatised.”
Mr Bean said he had noticed some types of trauma recurring in people caught up in gang violence in Bermuda.
He added: “We have a few whose fathers have been killed or family members who have been killed.
“The natural response is retaliation, which is understandable, but if you have the necessary tools to equip that individual, they can start to look at it from a different perspective that can bring hope rather than retaliation and doom.”
Mr Bean said: “When you talk to them they are tired, they don’t want to go out and get into trouble. Most of them want to live a productive life and are asking about jobs and opportunities that are available for them.”
Mr Bean was hired as the Government’s gang violence reduction co-ordinator last year and said a lot of work had gone on “behind the scenes”.
He and his team organised a talent contest last November called Live, Life, Love with performances focused on healing the community.
Mr Bean added he had also delivered talks in schools.
He said: “We are meeting people, which is a key component, but it is not for the public to know everything because sometimes it seems disingenuous when we are meeting someone and then publicising everything.
“We try to protect the anonymity of the individuals that we are dealing with but you can be rest assured that we are doing things behind the scenes.”
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