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Modest memorials best - Over-the-top remembrance of students could reopen wounds - psychologist

Published:Monday | September 18, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Dr Orlean Brown-Earle
In this September 2015 file photo, St George's College's Dominic James (left) celebrates a goal at Winchester Park with teammate Gregory Messam.
Mickolle Moulton
Residents of Zimbabwe in Arnett Gardens, south St Andrew, staging protests to repudiate reports of what led to the murder of 17-year-old Meadowbrook High School graduate Micholle Moulton last month.

Child psychologist Dr Orlean Brown-Earle has cautioned schools about planning over-the-top memorials to commemorate the lives of students who have died, as it may reopen old wounds in those most affected by the passing.

"Oftentimes with memorials, people become overemotional. So, if they're going to bring it up again, they have to be very careful how [they do it]. I recommend the simplest possible way," said Brown-Earle, who also serves as an associate professor and school psychologist at the Northern Caribbean University.

Brown-Earle's declaration comes exactly one year to the date since the death of 18-year-old schoolboy footballer Dominic James rocked the nation.

James, then captain of St George's College's Manning Cup team, died after he collapsed in the opening five minutes of a match against Excelsior High at the Stadium East field in Kingston.

Since then, the deaths of several other students, by natural and violent causes, have gained national attention, including the cases of Saymar Ramsay, Stephan McLaren, Nicholas Francis, and Mickolle Moulton.

But while admitting that celebrating the memory of a deceased loved one is natural, Browne-Earle stressed that the schools should first seek to identify the students most likely to be impacted by the sentiments.




"Sometimes it's best not to say anything, because you might not know which of them have not recovered from the loss and then you'll trigger emotional responses when you touch on the topic. So, the school administration/coaches have to be very sensitive towards these youngsters and be extra watchful of their behaviour when the anniversary of the passing of a loved one is approaching," argued Brown-Earle.

In speaking to the mental healing of students following the sudden loss of a friend or schoolmate, Browne-Earle said that persons usually come to grips with reality within two to three months.

However, she noted that if six months have elapsed and the students aren't coping successfully, they should undergo therapy.

The educator went on to urge people to respect the wishes of family members in relation to their loved ones. She also appealed to family members to exercise caution in their methods of remembrance.

"If the parents had planned to do, let's say, a scholarship, that is fine. But if it's something along the lines of a huge monument, which the other children will see every day when they're passing, you can see where that will cause some pain. We must be careful in that regard. You can't make it so that the memory of the person who has passed is more important than the persons that are living," explained Brown-Earle.