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Family Centre Sees 50% Increase In Calls

The Family Centre “is experiencing more than a 50 percent increase in calls and requests for therapeutic services as families” amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

A spokesperson said, “Families in Bermuda are feeling the pinch in many ways.”

Family Centre Executive Director Dr. Sandy De Silva said, “Family Centre is experiencing more than a 50 percent increase in calls and requests for therapeutic services as families can no longer suffer in silence.”

A spokesperson said, “Family Centre is Bermuda’s only free of charge, non-profit, community-based mental health counselling service for families with children between 4 and 18 years.

“The common message that we receive regarding the pandemic is everyone is in the same boat. However, for many families in Bermuda this is not the case. According to Child and Family Advocate Family Centre, the severity of the pandemic’s effect on families is not the same from family to family.

“In Bermuda, like in other jurisdictions, the pandemic’s severity on children and families can be directly measured according to socioeconomic factors and access to agencies that can help mitigate crisis and reduce stressors.

“A recent Royal Gazette article noted a rise of 25 percent in family cases before the courts, a spike of 30 percent in domestic abuse protection orders and a 19 percent increase in juvenile criminal cases.

“Family Centre completely agrees with Attorney-General Kathy Lynn Simmons on the likely significant financial, societal, and emotional stressors that are behind this rise in cases that end up before the courts.

“We can also expect families to feel squeezed in a financial vice as the Minister of Finance warns that Bermuda’s financial outlook is deeply uncertain.

“Dr. Sandy De Silva points to school closures as an example of how the pandemic can significantly impact a family and produce additional stress points to an already boiling pot of family challenges.”

Dr. De Silva said, “The dilemma of school, camp and extracurricular activity closures is not unique to Bermuda; it is a worldwide issue for parents and caregivers. This issue is on constant repeat due the pandemic.

“This significant change to a child and family’s life may reinforce feelings of helplessness and may increase feelings of frustration, anger, anxiety and hopelessness in the family system when expectations of what is normal are challenged on a daily basis.”

Susan Richardson, Director of Counselling Services at Family Centre, said, “If you have school aged children you are on ‘hyper alert’ for necessary, unplanned closures. These are critical measures to ensure our community remains as safe and healthy as possible. These closures are an added stressor to many families who are already experiencing challenges.

“For families who live paycheck to paycheck, these changes further impact their financial stability. Daily routines become interrupted. Children and youth at home require attention. They, too, feel anxious about the current situation and how it is affecting their lives.

“One parent expressed their situation by saying ‘the walls are closing in on me. I have become the centre of my children’s world and my grocery bill just increased. I don’t know how I’m going to pay the rent.’

The spokesperson said, “Families are encouraged to find ways to manage stress for the whole family, such as going on walks and playing games together. If you are frustrated with how your child is behaving, take a pause and breathe deeply before you respond.

“Show your child the behaviour you want to see, for example talking respectfully or solving arguments peacefully. As parents or caregivers, your own wellbeing is also important during stressful times. Your children will feel more relaxed and will be better able to cope with the situation if you yourself are able to stay grounded and healthy. Explain to your children that sometimes you also feel uncertain, frustrated, or worried.

“Role model healthy self-care and coping behaviours, such as maintaining a structure that is predictable for your family. Finally, allowing free play for younger children is one of the best ways for children to learn, and to support their wellbeing.

“Family Centre wants everyone to know that they are available for families and their children to discuss social and emotional challenges. Families can currently participate in Counselling services via Zoom or by phone and they can participate in Family Group workshops which are supportive and solution driven.

“Family Centre’s therapeutic programmes and services are all completely confidential. Families do not have to feel stuck or try to cope in crisis alone.

“If you know a family with children between the ages of 4-18-years-old that are experiencing social or emotional challenges, let them know Family Centre is available. They can be reached at 232-1116 or email them at info@tfc.bm. Ask to speak with a screener for help.”