Intended for healthcare professionals


And God will fill the bullet holes with candy

BMJ 1996; 313 doi: (Published 21 December 1996) Cite this as: BMJ 1996;313:1585
  1. Barbara J Genovese, research assistanta
  1. a Health Sciences Program, Santa Monica, California 90407–2138, USA

    Do not weep for them, madre. They are gone forever, the little ones, straight to heaven to the saints, and God will fill the bullet-holes with candy.

    NORMAN ROSTEN, In Guernica from The Fourth Decade and Other Poems, 1943

    I wish I could be very far from here-pretty much. I am secretly afraid of a lot of things—very much. I feel alone even when there are people around me—pretty much. I worry most of the time—very much. I worry about what my parents will say to me—very much. Often I have trouble getting my breath—very much. I have trouble swallowing—very much. My feelings are easily hurt—very much. It is hard for me to go to sleep at night—very much. I feel someone will tell me I do things the wrong way—very much. I often feel sick in my stomach—very much. I worry when I go to bed at night—very much. I often worry about what could happen to my parents—very much. I get tired easily—very much. I am nervous—very much.

    These answers were given by a 9 year old as he responded to questions on a psychological battery of tests that measured the mental health of children. Another section had to do with emotional support: “Who do you talk to when you're upset?” An innocuous enough question, as was his answer: “My brother.” Then I asked, “How old is your brother?” “4.”

    In 1991 I moonlighted as a research assistant on a study to look at the mental health of children between the ages of 6 and 12 living in homeless shelters in Los Angeles County. The objectives of our study were threefold: to describe the mental health and academic problems among sheltered homeless children—depression, behaviour problems, severe academic delays, witness to violence; to identify which homeless children have more …

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