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Dr. Joanne Paul- MBBS (UWI), FRCPCH (UK), FRCP (Edin)

 

 

So usually, I know the topic of the article weeks before I write it. It simmers around in my mind as I incorporate points and decide the flow as the story line manoeuvers and unfolds. Sometimes though a particular issue comes at me and lingers at the forefront, and I feel impelled to discuss and analyze and understand the issue and then write about it. Last week I wrote about anger and aggression in the post pandemic phase and for this week I had another topic about which I have been fiercely passionate. I was ready to move on. But then I am driving along to an urgent meeting, and I see Professor Gerard Hutchison. Professor Hutchison is a professor in psychiatry at the University of the West Indies and he also works at the psychiatric department at Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex. The thing about being a university Professor, you would have had to have authored over 50 academic papers and done significant research. More importantly though you would have had to have read numerous journals and articles on the various topics. And to be a professor worth your salt, you should be continuing to read and write and understand not only the focus of your research but other areas of interest and even more so, other areas of national and international interest. As a professor worth your salt, you must also accept the responsibility to be a repository of ideas and angles of thought to be able to be the binoculars to make persons focus on the real issues.

 

Mental health is a state of well-being and life balance where an individual can cope with the normal stressors of life and contributes to society. Thus, the focus for Professor Hutchison as a psychiatrist, is not only on mental illness but also on maintaining good mental health and understanding the reasons and solutions for when our mental health is not doing so well.

So, as I am chatting with Professor Hutchison, we chat about general things for a bit, but then we go straight to the increased anger and aggression in the society now, a topic which has remained on my mind. So, then the man starts doing a deep dive on the issue, again twisting, and turning the hexagon, each time showing me a different slant in this very complex and sometimes not so complex an issue. So, I tell him write some points that I can share further with the readers to be able to explore this issue further.

In this first paragraph Prof makes the point that the anger, aggression, and negative mental health are also just secondary to the removal of restrictions post pandemic. It is like after you have been couped up for a while. You come out with increased unfocussed energy, almost wild, with emotions unchecked.


Prof:

Several studies across the world including here in Trinidad and Tobago have found that mental health has been negatively affected by the pandemic and all its consequences. Levels of anxiety and depression have increased. Substance use, mental health related to emotional trauma and aggression have also seen increases. These are in addition to the grief and loss that inevitably accompanies the widespread loss of life. The negative societal and mental health effects are likely to be initially and perhaps persistently exacerbated as the social and other measures are relaxed which seems to the phase in which we in Trinidad and Tobago are now experiencing. This has been evident across the world where there has been a surge in assault related crime and violence more so after pandemic related restrictions have been lifted. One of the engines of this surge is the overall decline in mental health mediated by the lowered thresholds of frustration and capacity to tolerate disadvantage, perceived and real

Another point Prof also makes is that with the pandemic and the declined mental health, we have less ability to be resilient, tolerant and handle frustration. It is like we are on edge and there is less space between routine daily emotional milieu and breaking down. We either cry easily or just want to beat up someone just because

Prof:

One of the less appreciated medium- and long-term outcomes of prolonged exposure to social and physical stress is a lowered frustration tolerance and a decreased capacity to resist impulses that may be either or both pleasurable and dangerous. In a society where some groups are particularly vulnerable and where measures to protect these groups are less than ideal, crimes against these vulnerable groups are likely to increase. High levels of deprivation and social disorganization have a bidirectional relationship with crime and mental health problems so identifying and addressing the needs of these populations is critical to mediating any surges or increases in prevalence.


So essentially, we were cooped up and our mental health, our ability to cope with normal stressors, declined. Now we are released, and we feel wild, uncontrolled, unchecked and at the same time intolerant and easily vex or sad for no reason.

Sometimes choosing the Matrix red pill and seeing the reality is much less fun.

Dr Joanne F Paul is a Lecturer, a Paediatric Emergency Specialist, and a member of TEL institute

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