Psychological experts stress importance of holistic support for Mahdia fire victims
Trinidadian Psychologist, Dr. Joanne Spence
Trinidadian Psychologist, Dr. Joanne Spence

Advocates long-term healing process

DR. Desmond Khan, a philosopher, psychologist, and social worker from Canada, along with Dr. Joanne Spence, a psychologist from Trinidad, have stressed the importance of a comprehensive approach to helping those impacted by the Mahdia tragedy.
“We have recognized that 19 children lost their lives in Mahdia at the dormitory, and the whole country is mourning at this time; the parents of those children, even the parents of those who have survived, are still mourning,” Dr. Spence said.

She explained that adopting a holistic approach is crucial to addressing the situation, as it has affected everyone involved.
“Individually in terms of families and friends and then the nation; people in Trinidad, people in different countries are grieved by the whole situation,” she said in an exclusive interview with the Guyana Chronicle.

Dr. Spence emphasised that it is essential to provide support not only to the children and parents but also to the entire family unit, as well as first responders and fire service officers, as they have also been deeply affected by the traumatic event.
“People have compound trauma, and I think those persons who are involved, the first responders, they particularly who have been dealing with incident after incident and then just going back to work, we have to understand the importance of preparing them for this type of trauma,” she related.

Meanwhile, psychologist and social worker Dr. Desmond Khan stated that when he read one of the many news articles it was noted that “the mother who left her five-year-old son to rescue some of the girls in the dormitory, would be viewed as a hero, but, what many do not focus on is when it is all over, what is left.”

He continued: “What will be the result of something like this? There would be things like Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, and trauma, and that will not only affect family members and survivors; it will affect everyone that has been involved and also, that will bring to the surface those who had previously experienced trauma but never dealt with it, never got closure, never got the right treatment, so one trauma can trigger a next trauma if it is not dealt with.”

Dr. Khan said that he is confident that the Guyana government has mechanisms in place to help persons, but even so, they are open to providing support during this time.
Further, he explained that, unfortunately, this trauma will not just be a “one week thing” that people get over in one week or even a year or two.

“That doesn’t happen like that. When you have loss and when it is tragic like this, it doesn’t disappear after a year or two; we have heard that so many times, but this will be something that will affect persons for a long time,” he said.
Dr. Khan added that people would need help concerning how to process the situation, how to deal with it, how to bring closure and how to move on.
The two psychologists were brought into Guyana under the patronages of the of the Region Three Private Sector Inc. (R3PSInc) and its Head Halim Khan.

Seven of the 19 girls who were air-dashed to the Georgetown Public Hospital after they were injured in the horrific fire at the Mahdia Secondary School female dormitory in Region Eight were discharged on Wednesday.

The seven girls are in good condition and all of them are receiving counselling. Nine girls were brought to the city on Monday and 10 more arrived on Tuesday. One of them received a limb-saving surgery required due to the burns she sustained and another girl is in critical but stable condition.
A total of 12 girls are currently admitted at the hospital. The parents of some of the girls were also brought to the city to comfort their children at this time.

Canadian Philosopher, Psychologist, and Social Worker, Dr. Desmond Khan

The devastating fire started after 23:00 hrs. on Sunday night and continued into the wee hours of Monday morning. Authorities have confirmed that 18 girls and one boy died in the fire. The girls were students, while the boy, five, was the son of the caretakers of the dormitory. Investigators also found that another student maliciously set the fire.
According to the Guyana Fire Service, the building had 26 windows and five doors. Unfortunately, 56 students had difficulty escaping due to the heavily grilled windows and locked doors. The house mother held the keys to all the doors.

With great urgency, she made her way to open the doors. In the end, firefighters were able to rescue 38 students by breaking holes in the northeastern wall of the building.
The school provided accommodation for girls from various villages including Mahdia, Campbelltown, Micobie, El Paso, and others located in the North Pakaraimas region of Region Eight.
A mental health team made up of representatives from different government ministries and agencies is now available to provide support to students, parents, and others impacted by the distressing fire incident.

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