MENTAL HEALTH OF THE NATION
By Dr MIKE NEVILLE
“Lunatic, bad head, crazy, they need to be locked up.”
These are still pretty common views of mental illness.
Stigma and prejudice are still where most people get their knowledge of mental health; the psychological issues facing the nation are swept into the background behind heart disease, cancer and infectious diseases.
It is my belief, however, that our bodies are one and mental and physical health are completely intertwined.
It is now two years since our son, Sean, was brutally murdered outside our home (there have been no arrests and no one charged) and nearly one year since our other son, Damian, was injured in a sports accident. It is fair to say that my own mental and physical health has taken a battering as life moved from a fairly idyllic existence to a major struggle for survival. I try to force myself from my pit of despair and when my head pops up and I can see out of the pit at the world around me I realise how many others are struggling on very similar journeys.
The shock, horror and anger seems universal, the lack of trust in the criminal justice system, the sense of betrayal making the raw anger even worse. The stories seem to overlap, leaving a sense that those in authority do not want the crime problem solved; there have been over a thousand murders in the last decade leaving a significant part of society floundering in profound grief and anger.
The numbers soar even further when other crimes of violence like attempted murder and rape are added to the list; the rage and despair is further fuelled by the bizarre attempts of politicians and the police to “blame the victims”.
The plight of the nation does not end there: traffic accidents, robberies and lost jobs also leave a trail of stress and horror. There has also been the devastation of hurricanes smashing the islands, leaving a trail of destruction in their paths.
It is really no wonder that the health of the nation is at major risk of total collapse both physical and mental. There is plenty of research showing the links between levels of stress and many diseases, including cardiac disease and cancer.
The object of this series is to focus more on the mental health issues caused by these disastrous events that are conspiring to bring us all to a state barely imaginable in the not too distant past. It impacts how we feel, it impacts the productivity and balance of the work force, and it causes mental illness, further eroding the very fabric of society. I intend to look at how our personalities and daily behaviour are affected by these internal and external forces and how this is impacting public policy here and on the international stage.
It seems that more and more elections are won by manipulating emotions rather than discussing issues or policies; there is less concern about things that could help the people and more reliance on fanning the raw anger that flows through the arteries of the nation. This has been made worse by “fake news”, “alternate facts” or old fashioned lies: the vast information highway has so much stuff out there that people seem happy to believe whatever they want to believe.
All this is adding to the ever growing anger levels as gradually the lies become obvious, but as one English politician said “the people want to be lied to”.
Famous leaders have had mental health issues that caused impacts on world affairs that remain with us indefinitely. I intend to write about some of these figures. It is also interesting to wonder what would happen here or to our neighbours if a seriously disturbed individual were elected to a major office. It would affect all of our lives – but can anything prevent this?
There have been so many kind and wonderful folks that have reached out and helped us as we struggle to make sense of our recurring crisis that I have hope for the core decency of our fellow travellers and hope for the future.
There is, however, a dark cloud that still hangs over the country and it brings to mind a poem by T S Elliot called ‘Wasteland’. He wrote “April is the cruellest month”. I think he was referring to his inability to enjoy the flowers that bloom in spring, due to the despair he felt at the breakup of his marriage. The Bahamas has great beauty all year round, but the dark, dank, destructive anger that ebbs with the tides makes the beauty invisible and every month becomes the cruellest month.
NEXT WEEK: Love is all you need
• Dr Mike Neville is a forensic psychiatrist who has practiced for more than 40 years in the Bahamas, working at Sandilands, the prison and in private practice. Comments and responses to email@example.com