JCA Young drug addicts need support, says psychologist

AS many voices echo the danger of using Molly and other illegal drugs, Keisha Bowla-Hines, associate clinical psychologist coordinator of counselling services for the Liguanea Region of the South East Regional Health Authority (SERHA), says emphasis should also be placed on helping youngsters to overcome their addiction, as it can be difficult.

Bowla-Hines spoke to the Jamaica Observer as part of the documentary, Molly Predicament, which may be viewed on the Jamaica Observer‘s official YouTube channel.

“Recovering from drug use can be quite difficult, especially if the drug is one that is highly addictive, or in which the child becomes heavily dependent. It can be quite difficult in the absence of a strong support network — I cannot emphasise that enough — social support is so important,” she said.

“Sometimes when our children make decisions that we don’t like as parents or as caregivers, we become quite angry. Sometimes we blame ourselves, sometimes we also lash out at the children themselves. It would really be more helpful to be more supportive, to be present with that child, teenager, adolescent, and journey with them through the process,” she went on.

Bowla-Hines told the Sunday Observer that means “pulling out all the stops” and hearing the children’s side — even if parents don’t agree with it.

“Giving them a reasonable ear, validating their feeling, trying to understand where they are coming from and help them along the way. It might mean going with them to receive counselling support, it might mean taking extra steps to just sit with them when they are down or sad, it might mean simply recognising that perhaps some of the things that we have tried as parents may not have worked as effectively as we hoped.”

And if that’s the case, there should be contemplation as to whether parenting strategies need to be changed “to better meet the needs of the adolescent or teenager that we’re working with”.

“Sometimes in our culture we tend to think that children have nothing to worry about except to eat and go to school or play, and things like that but the reality is that our children are little people… they are little human beings and all of us, children and adults, will face difficult situations at some point or the other and will need some type of skills or strategies to help us to cope,” she said.

She added that where children are concerned, one of the greatest ways to teach them how to cope with difficult situations is by modeling.

“If their parents or caregivers or church family or teachers were to demonstrate how to manage difficult circumstances then our children are able to learn and they are then able to mimic similar responses as they get older. Let’s look at losing someone you love. Sometimes adults might shy away from having a child see them cry, or they might feel uncomfortable expressing their sadness and their grief in the presence of a child,” she explained.

“But if the child is able to see mommy or daddy or their caregiver or their sister or brother crying, that child learns that it is okay to cry when they feel sad, that it’s okay for them to express how I’m feeling because those around me will understand.”

Bowla-Hines told the Sunday Observer that it’s equally as important that people know and understand what coping mechanisms are, for according to her, that’s the only way they can be effectively established.

“Coping mechanisms are the ways in which an individual manages day-to-day stressors or difficulties or challenges. Coping strategies are far and wide and may differ based on the situation. For many of us here in Jamaica, a lot of us cope with problems by our faith. We pray, we read our Bible — many persons will tell you ‘I just pray’ and that is helpful because it’s faith-based.

Some people, she said, talk to other people as a means to cope.

“You may have a close friend that you talk with or you may have a close group of friends that you might share with. If you’re having difficulty at work, maybe there’s a supervisor or a colleague that you trust. Some persons may listen to music; some persons exercise — they may go jogging or go to the gym or go for a walk.”

Then, there are more professional methods that are used.

“Perhaps joining a formal support group for the issue that is on the table, seeking professional counselling, is another mechanism that can be used. So, the strategies are far and wide and [are] heavily dependent on the situation that is on the table,” she said.

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