Therapist on the death of the Princes Town couple: Put the children first
Laurel V Williams
Clinical traumatologist Hanif EA Benjamin urged relatives and others to take “extra precautions” and work together to avoid any further possible harm in the treatment of the two children who lost their parents over the weekend.
“Right now the priority is the kids. While everyone is grieving, the kids haven’t developed the coping mechanism to grieve the way they should,” Benjamin told Newsday per phone on Tuesday.
“While I am also empathetic and sympathetic towards adult parents, they and others must take extra precautions to avoid further harm to children.”
Benjamin, the former president of the Children’s Authority, was commenting on the deaths of Shaline Ramkissoon, 38, and her common-law husband Steve “Ricky” Jugmohan, 40. The couple committed suicide on Saturday at their home on La Paille Road in Princes Town. .
They lived with their two children, a nine-year-old daughter and a six-year-old son on the ground floor of the Jugmohan family home. Their daughter found the bodies and alerted relatives who live on the top floor of the house.
The night before, the couple had recorded a video about what they were planning on doing. The girl heard it all as she sat on a bed in the bedroom the family shared. The couple said they were struggling with money and expressed their love for the two children.
The daughter now lives with her mother’s parents in St John’s Village, San Fernando, while her brother is with their father’s mother.
Benjamin, a clinical therapist, told Newsday: “The loved ones at this stage need to come together to create a sense of security for the children. Any kind of breakup needs to be put aside.”
Benjamin reiterated that people must work together for the good of children.
“Their safety is important because right now their world as they know it has been turned upside down. A level of peace and stability needs to be created for the children as they heal and go through the grieving process.
“That’s apparently the most important thing at this stage. Children need to express how they feel.”
Benjamin is President and CEO of the Center for Human Development, a private practice offering comprehensive psychology, counseling and mental health services.
Relatives said Children’s Authority staff met the girl on Sunday and she saw members of the police Victim Support Unit the following day. On Tuesday, a counselor from her school also met with her.
Benjamin expressed concern about this, saying there should be a coordinated effort in his therapy.
“When people are going through such a traumatic incident, the fact that too many people come in and maybe ask the same sets of questions and talk about the same set of things tends to put off the survivors or the victims a bit. It creates a level of stress.
“So in times like these, a coordinated effort is the best option.
“This country lacks this coordination capacity. That is why I continue to call for the creation of a trauma center in Trinidad and Tobago.”
In such a center, he said, a team would work together to do what it needs to do.
“While everyone (in counseling) can have a role and a responsibility, you have to consider whether it’s too much for the family and the child at this stage.”
The girl’s grandfather, Ramesh Ramkissoon, 75, said she dreamed of her mother on Monday night and woke up abruptly.
She told relatives that her mother sent her to look for a piece of jewelry under a chair in the dream.
“She’s doing pretty well at the moment,” he said. “The belief in Hinduism and other religions is that the spirit or the soul would wander after the funeral. At this time, the spirit hovers above the body wherever it is. Once the body is cremated or buried, it begins to move I am not yet dead to say if so, but we follow the belief.
Autopsies are expected to be carried out in the coming days at the Forensic Science Center in St James.
Anyone needing help can call Lifeline (24-hour helpline) at 800-5588, 231-2824, or 220-3636
In an emergency (suicide attempt), people can call 990, 811 or 999.