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Painful lesson from St Lucy child tragedy

The suspected suicide of 12-year-old Shamar Weekes, occurring in the midst of the annual observance of Child Month, has sent shockwaves through the nation. To the best of our knowledge, a tragedy of this kind in Barbados is unprecedented, at least in living memory.

As expected, it has left Barbadians painfully wondering what could have driven this lad, still in the prime of childhood innocence, to take such drastic action.

The Child Care Board, the statutory agency with responsibility for promoting the welfare of our nation’s children, promptly responded by announcing it had launched an investigation to determine the circumstances that had led to this tragedy. Preliminary findings have turned up no reported evidence establishing a link to abuse.

Naturally, we expect the authorities will continue their probe for a plausible explanation. Whatever was the exact cause, we may never know. Only Shamar knew for sure, and will take this vital information with him to the grave.

However, the tragic circumstances of his passing do serve to bring into sharp focus the complex life-related challenges facing our children, many of whom, going by behaviours they exhibit, are finding it hard to cope, especially in the absence of effective parental guidance and support.

In a recent Editorial ahead of this tragedy, we made an appeal to adults to focus more on demonstrating caring and compassion for our young people, instead of rushing to condemn them as “no good” as so many adults seem inclined to do. Overly criticizing our young people does not provide a solution to the problem. If anything, it only contributes to making the matters worse.

Children are always a reflection of grown-ups, because they learn in so many ways by mimicking adult behaviour.

Against the backdrop of this unfortunate tragedy, we today are renewing our call for caring and compassion in the hope of rescuing other young people who may feel as if they have been pushed to the brink, and are contemplating giving up on life because they believe nobody cares. The truth is that many of our young people feel unloved and uncared for.

Their postings on social media sometimes speak to the pain that is hidden on the inside, but which any sensitive person can readily pick up.

Adults who indulge in harsh criticism of our young people cannot compare the environment in which they grew up with that which exists today. The two are fundamentally different. The adults of today grew up in a largely sheltered environment and were not exposed to the many “temptations” which young people face today.

It is ironic that some of these said “temptations” are provided by adults. Illegal drugs represent a good example. Also the sexual exploitation of young girls lured by money.

Adults can make a meaningful difference in the lives of children by taking time to engage them in wholesome conversation, exploring what is happening in their lives, especially if they are parents, and helping them to sort through the many mixed messages they are receiving, that are making them confused as to what is expected of them in life –– particularly if they have to sort through the maze themselves without parental guidance.

The act of taking one’s life is rarely a sudden decision. Persons who have done so often gave clues that something was wrong in the period leading up to the act. In a sense, these clues and warnings are a silent cry for help. It is instructive that a teenaged neighbour recalled that Shamar, despite being a jovial fellow who would love to tell jokes that made his friends laugh, had threatened on several occasions in the past that “he would hurt himself”. She said she never believed him.

Clearly, Shamar was going through some kind of inner turmoil that professional intervention might have helped him to resolve. Parents and friends cannot be blamed, because, in many instances, they are not perceptive enough or have not been trained to recognize the danger signs.

Coming out of this tragedy, we hope there will be a review of state-provided psychological counselling and other services geared towards our young people, with a view to improving and making them more effective.

It is also important, going forward, that emphasis be placed on equipping parents, guardians and teachers who have the most contact daily with children, with the skills to recognize when things are going wrong, so they would be in a position to seek professional intervention if they are unable, on their own, to help the child to come to an understanding of what he or she is experiencing and agree on a workable solution.

We can honour Shamar’s name and memory by taking steps to ensure that other children do not suffer whatever it is he had to go through.

13 Responses to Painful lesson from St Lucy child tragedy

  1. Cynthia Blackman
    Cynthia Blackman May 18, 2015 at 8:20 pm

    Whatever the result PAINFUL LESSON INDEED ..May he rest in peace

  2. Matie Siew
    Matie Siew May 18, 2015 at 8:25 pm

    Rip little boy

  3. Deborah Greene
    Deborah Greene May 18, 2015 at 8:55 pm

    R I P

  4. P Buckley May 18, 2015 at 9:12 pm

    This is truly a tragedy. I hope the powers that be, if they are competent at all, will take it as a warning. I advise them to look at the record of child and teen suicides among Canada’s First Nations. Yes, there are many differences, but there are many similarities as well between those children and the children of Barbados… poverty, abuse by adults, bullying by peers, a sense of nowhere to go…
    You may be shocked as it’s the first… I would be surprised if it’s the last.

  5. Saundra Moore May 18, 2015 at 9:13 pm

    “To the best of our knowledge, a tragedy of this kind in Barbados is unprecedented, at least in living memory.” This is not correct, I’m aware of 2 instances…the more recent was a boy from Wesley Hall Junior School.

  6. Amanda Greaves
    Amanda Greaves May 18, 2015 at 9:14 pm

    Yet still de mother walking free

  7. Charlie Black May 18, 2015 at 10:57 pm

    Let’s not judge..

  8. Roberta Ford. May 19, 2015 at 4:00 am

    Rip so sad xxxx

  9. nanci May 19, 2015 at 2:29 pm

    a young kid like that not going to kill himself for no apparent reason, something going on in the home made him do it, parents especially in the Carribbean need to show love to their kids, put your kids first, not a man, not a woman, your kids must come first, and if anyone come in your home and cant show some respect to your kids, because they dont share his or her blood line, make that a good reason to not have that person around your kids. Caribbean and African culture embrace beatings and floggings, and professing that it makes better kids. I think that is a smoke screen to not listen to the kids, or treat them as you would love to be treated. When the husbands or wives or girlfriend or boyfriends leave you, you will resort back to your kids when they are adults, so love them now they are young. Barbados dont have no forensic or other methods to determine if this little boy did indeed kill himself,, you know how many atrocities were committed by other people because the investigation didnt go far enough?

  10. nanci May 19, 2015 at 2:34 pm

    I don’t think the mother did enough to protect or help shamar with his problems, but i hope the public will know the entire truth about what really made shamar hurt himself, why so many people wanted to take him, and she didnt give him to someone who will treat him better. I would’ve taken him in a heart beat, and raise him until he get 17 years old, the age of consent, and beyond. People need to reach out for help when bad things going on in the home especially when it hurting the kids. The kids didn’t ask to be bought in this world, and everyday should be child month .

  11. Sandra Basc May 19, 2015 at 7:32 pm

    It is truly a very very sad occurrence and my heart breaks each time it think about Shamar and what he must have been going through. My concern is that we do not have a compete support system here. Our social services, communities and schools are failing our children miserably.

    Hope the powers that be will take a second look at what is happening in this country and proper systems are implemented

  12. nanci May 21, 2015 at 4:50 pm

    thats what bandura said, children learn from their environment and by learning and observing, so if the child want to talk back to the parent, maybe in some way they are doing the same thing we that parents did, or are doing. They learn from their environment, so if the environment is tense and a bit rebellious, kids will find a way to prioritize or adapt to that environment, in other words they will find a way to cope. What if the mother was calling him out for every little thing, in order to please or appease her boyfriend,, remember sharmar didnt had a father around, so that was his way of coping. I will wait and see what the pathologist say, remember the body will tell the story.

  13. Chris Wright May 23, 2015 at 4:54 pm

    “It takes a village to raise a child” Some of us older folks do remember that was the environment in which we grew up however as. times have changed and we go about seeking the material things of life the caring for children are lost In tbe rush
    Many forgot that many of the behaviours children express we too we’re guilty of stands the reason we should be more aware of their actions.
    We are not all child psychologists but there are little signs we can be on the lookout for on a daily basis. If we do not take such stands and hide behind our doors and windows, just peep out and only come out after the tragedy casting blame on others, stop, think and ask ourselves. What is there I could have done to protect that child?


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