Violence affects our children

Dr Ellapen Rapiti, Kenwyn

Not a day passes that we do not hear about brutal killings on the Cape Flats, with headlines declaring that Cape Town is one of the most violent cities in the world.

Ordinary struggling men and women have to leave their homes in the cold-dark-winter mornings filled with fear that they will be pounced upon by a group of knife- and gun-wielding thugs out to rob them of their cellphones and whatever they have in their possession. Some end up being badly beaten by these thugs for absolutely no reason at all.

The police and government have clearly lost the battle against criminals when worshippers are robbed in a church in the middle of a service. What defence does the priest and his congregants have against a bunch of ruthless thugs who have lost their soul?

I was shocked when a six-year-old boy was brought to me with a history of severe headaches.

The night before, the headache was so intense that he asked his dad to take his head off. He cried all night in front of his helpless parents.

The usual pain syrup did nothing to alleviate his pain.

The parents were worried that their son suffered from a serious problem in the brain and wanted a scan.

In my rooms, the child looked well and pleasant and displayed no signs of any pathology in the brain.

I decided to tactfully look for an underlying psychological cause for his headaches.

After a short history, the little boy sadly admitted that he was very worried that his dad would be shot and never return whenever his dad goes out and he hears gun shots.

On that particular night, his dad went out to buy car parts and the little boy heard gun shots, so he panicked and developed severe tension headaches fearing that his father was killed by the gangs. Examination of his muscles revealed that his muscles were taut, tight and tender.

I have treated tension headaches in several adults but this was the first that I had treated a young six-year-old for tension headaches.

I counselled him because pain relievers were not going to solve the little boy’s fears.

This little boy’s story is merely the tip of the iceberg. I am sure there must be thousands of children who suffer from headaches, depression and anxiety as a result of the unbridled violence on the Cape Flats.

All I could do was to try and reassure the little boy but I could not completely allay his fears knowing that violence is totally out of control in our country.

Children don’t have a way of expressing their innermost fears which affect their concentration and behaviour at home and in class.

We need to reach out to our children and listen to their fears and pain. We must not wait for something serious to happen to them before we take them seriously.

I can only appeal to our government and law enforcement agencies to listen to the pain and fear of our children and citizens instead of just making empty threats to criminals.