Generations of unresolved grief and trauma, brought on by unaddressed emotional concerns, plague many of Bermuda’s families.

This according to Martha Dismont, director of the Family Centre.

Speaking before the Parliamentary Joint Select Committee on Violence and Gun Crime yesterday, Mrs. Dismont said a lot of our problems stem from many people living in poverty due to the rising cost of housing. Another factor was poor graduation rates.

She said: “Referrals for ‘at risk’ children have risen by more than 10 percent in the past three years and nearly 600 children were referred to Government’s Family Services last year for abuse, neglect and exposure to domestic violence.”

Mrs. Dismont said a survey conducted by the Department of National Drug Control stated there was a “general sense of hopelessness among Bermuda’s youth which prevents them from setting goals for the future and encourages destructive behaviour directed at themselves, their peers and their communities”.

In working with Bermuda’s most “vulnerable” families, she said: “Families in chronic chaos live below the normal rules for social order. Young child clients live in the same homes as adult offenders.”

Mrs. Dismont also said young people who see their economic future as “bleak” often join gangs for money and self-esteem.

“Young people are impressionable and crave excitement. They may become involved in gangs because the media glamorizes gang lifestyle through movies, music and other entertainment.

“By the time the young people realize that the gang is not what they want, it may be too late to drop out without facing violence or prosecution.”

As for the solution, Mrs. Dismont said reports in the last 20 years have shown there is a need for more preventive services, room to improve education, address the high cost of living and more.

She added parents need to be more involved in their children’s lives.

Last year, referrals increased by more than 60 percent at the Family Centre. They provide counselling for 218 families. Ninety families were enrolled in the centre’s most intensive programme—  an 87 per cent increase.