Three overseas-based psychologists will visit St. Vincent to provide therapy for persons affected by the Rock Gutter tragedy, in which five students died while three remain missing after a minibus plunged into the sea in north-eastern St. Vincent on Monday.
The Ministry of Health said Thursday that it is strengthening its psychosocial efforts to meet the growing needs of persons affected by the incident in which 14 persons were injured, seven of which remain in hospital.
Neeka Anderson-Isaacs, health communications officer in the Ministry of Health, Wellness and the Environment, said Thursday that the fact that two persons remain unaccounted for creates additional difficulties in bringing closure to the tragedy.
“The ministry’s main focus now is, therefore, on counselling,” she said, adding that the affected persons will benefit from the services of the psychologists.
Barbados psychologists Dr. Michael Campbell and Rev. Dr. Marcus Lashley, who arrived Thursday night, will offer their expertise in trauma and grief therapy.
Dr. Claudius Davis, a Vincentian psychologist practising in New York, is slated to arrive tonight, Friday, Anderson-Isaacs said.
“Through strong partnership and collaborative efforts, the Ministries of Health, Education and Mobilization are working together to effectively meet the psychosocial needs following the incident,” Anderson-Isaacs said.
She said that Kathleen Jeffers, Education Officer in the Ministry of Education in the area of counselling, is responsible for mobilizing counsellors trained in trauma and response management to visit the communities and schools to respond to the needs of persons.
A crisis centre has been set up in Fancy at the Seventh Day Adventist Church to complement the one opened in Owia immediately after the tragedy.
Health Psychologist in the Ministry of Health Dr. Jozelle Miller said three students were expected to be discharged from the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital yesterday, but were being held for further counselling and observation because of the students’ fears.
Miller is imploring persons who are unable to cope to try to seek help wherever possible. She says help can be obtained at all health centres or any of the crisis centres.
Miller said one of the biggest challenges at the moment is allowing those who have been injured and affected the time to heal.
She has asked that victims, particularly the children, be given time and space to rest and heal.
She suggested that visitors be mindful of the stress which the victims are undergoing and limit the time spent to allow them the opportunity to rest.
Meanwhile, Permanent Sectary in the Ministry of Health Luis de Shong said there is a huge need for psychological support to be given to all of the affected persons.
He emphasized that this will take time but said his ministry is committed to ensuring that the support is sustained and beneficial to all.
Persons who are not directly affected but are being impacted by the tragedy are advised not to visit the area, Anderson-Isaacs said, adding, “However, they, too, can receive counselling support. All persons are also encouraged to assist in offering love and moral support to the families and institutions directly affected by the incident.”