Vaneisa: Flooding, drought, earthquakes, war… no wonder we struggle with mental health

EPL Infrafred Sauna

A friend messaged me a couple of days ago to say that her doctor had put her on anti-anxiety meds and it makes her feel so exhausted.

It reminded me that after I got Covid, I had experienced a quickness to exhaustion myself—a general fogginess and a funk. I deduced that I might be carrying the symptoms being associated with long Covid and my biggest concern was whether it might turn out to be a forever condition or if it would pass completely or at least, be reduced.

A woman self-isolates during the Covid-19 pandemic.

I have had enough personal interaction with viruses to know that the after-effects can persist. Four episodes of Dengue and one of Chikungunya have made a believer of me.

My doctor also put me on some similar meds, but after a month, I found their effect so unpleasant that I stopped taking them. Perhaps that was not prudent, but having abandoned them, I felt more myself, and I don’t regret it.

I’d had a conversation at the time with someone who was convinced that there was a connection between Covid and these symptoms and it did not necessarily mean that medication was required. I don’t know.

I have just looked at the website of the World Health Organisation (WHO), and on a page datelined 28 March, they said their “current understanding of causes of post Covid-19 condition and why some people are more affected is limited”.

World Health Organization (WHO) director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom.

It seems rational that there would be insufficient data at this point for any definitive analysis of the long-term effects. Time has been too short.

“The most common symptoms associated with post Covid-19 condition include fatigue, breathlessness and cognitive dysfunction (for example, confusion, forgetfulness, or a lack of mental focus or clarity),” stated the site. “Post Covid-19 condition can affect a person’s ability to perform daily activities such as work or household chores. At present, there are no proven drug treatments for post Covid-19 condition.”

I’d been wondering about the prevalence of this, because I had also been thinking about the state of mental health in the country—well, mental health across the planet.

I keep wondering what is happening to people living under constant crisis. Apart from flooding, drought, earthquakes, storms and all the pestilences, humankind persists in warfare that unleashes violence even unto those who are not directly involved.

Venezuelans turn to desperate measures for water during an internal crisis compounded by the Covid-19 pandemic.
(via BMJ)

How could we not be living in a world overcome by trauma?

In our small corner of this roly-poly world, we carry disproportionately high figures for mental disorders (as with NCDs; PAHO says the Caribbean “faces the highest burden” for developing nations in the Americas and chronic NCDs are the leading cause of death).

I was told that in our region it is estimated at between 15 and 30 per cent, which means somewhere between one in six and one in three people will experience at some point in their life, some form of mental illness.

These figures are not new. The reason I had asked was because I recalled something like one in three—but then I remembered it was that one in three of the people suffering some form of mental disorder had a history of sexual abuse.

A depressed young man.

One way or the other, these are alarming amounts. And even if we are not yet described as living in a war zone, it is clear that violence has escalated to a point where the nature of the acts has become so gruesome, that it suggests a descent into the abyss.

What is going on in a person’s mind when they tie up someone, beat, chop, shoot them, set them on fire, kill them? What made them capable of this? What is the life before, the life after committing such deeds?

It has to be mind-messing.

That descent is not just evident by the physically violent crimes, but in the manner of our behaviour in what could once have been called social interactions.

Troll warning…

In public spaces, politicians continue to wallow deeper in mud—jouvay from Sunday to Sunday. Those calling them out on social media platforms are vitriolic and often bizarre in their responses.

People read things so loosely that it could easily be described as functional illiteracy and then they let loose with their rants. It’s as if everybody leggo no-hand, and nothing provokes even a little introspection.

Everyone seems either on the edge or already down the precipice.

If we are to think in terms of statistics, it means that every possible grouping, from three to six, contains at least one person suffering from some kind of mental disturbance.

A satirical take on remote work.


I am using the term broadly, because I am very well aware that there is a whole spectrum along which mental disorders range, and there is no automatic association with aberrant or anti-social behaviour.

But to extrapolate, imagine the House of Parliament, what proportion of the representatives can we reasonably expect to be suffering from anxiety, or ADHD, or depression?

What about in your workplace? How about on sport teams? How about school teachers, nurses, doctors? Within your family?

Do we really believe that everyone is faring well because they put on their Facebook faces and send us blissful selfies?

Sometimes it is difficult to ask for help.

It is simpler for people to talk about the presence of evil, and that might be so, but where we are now demands much more than rebuke—we need to look at the state of our mental health.

More from Wired868
Vaneisa: The Unseen and the Unspoken—and the need to fix “us”

When I started what I thought could be a series on cricket and our Caribbean societies seven columns ago, I Read more

Vaneisa: Why Trinidad and Tobago’s trauma is real and festering

Trauma is a loaded word—carrying burdens that are often invisible until something triggers an eruption. The first part is the Read more

Vaneisa: Parenting and punishment—“discipline is often equated with physical violence”

He was telling me about a group discussion about childhood. In an unfamiliar environment, he’d told those strangers that he Read more

Vaneisa: Getting to the roots of “superfood” marketing

Every other week, it seems, something is being designated as a superfood. Bestowed with this crown, marketers go to town—extolling Read more

Vaneisa: How to celebrate mom without bending to capitalist manipulation

I was searching for words to describe how I might come across in this column—killjoy, grinch, scrooge—because I know they Read more

Vaneisa: Dear President Kangaloo, here’s one way to advocate for change in our youth

President Christine Kangaloo played a hopeful string of chords for me with her inaugural address. She spoke of modernising the Read more

About Vaneisa Baksh

Vaneisa Baksh
Vaneisa Baksh is a columnist with the Trinidad Express, an editor and a cricket historian. She is currently working on a biography of Sir Frank Worrell.

Check Also

Vaneisa: Saluting cricketers in a league of their own

So far, in not writing about cricket for eight columns straight (I am sticking to …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.