Mental Health Of The Nation: To Sleep, Perchance To Dream Of A World With Less Stress


Dr Mike Neville


“Happiness is not the absence of problems, it is the ability to deal with them.”

THOSE of us that can sleep, wake up each day to some really beautiful mornings, they are truly blessed; it is still cool that early, the birds are singing and the world seems at peace.

I am fond of breakfast - corn beef and grits or boil fish with Johnny cake is an excellent way to start; occasionally an Irish breakfast with eggs, sausages, tomatoes, mushrooms, black and white puddings and soda bread. A start like that should surely herald in a great day, but all too often it is shouting at the kids and rushing out the door with nothing to eat, late for work and school.

The morning drive. A blissful start? More stress?

I live in the east and actually savour the traffic; the Eastern Road is straddled by some of the most gorgeous trees that I have ever seen. If you are driving fast, you fly by without a thought, but stuck in traffic the “Pink Poui” tree covers the side of the road with its pink blossoms, the golden shower tree is as descriptive as it looks with a profusion of yellow blooms, the colours of the bougainvillea must leave us all speechless, the red and yellow poinciana and my personal favourite the “Shaving Brush Tree” with its purple bristles reminding me to shave.

Sadly my guided imagery therapy is soon interrupted by some idiot hooting and cutting past me racing to nowhere and then with its fearsome sirens and racing buses our protectors “The Police” force me off the road and back into anxiety as they race past taking prisoners to court. Most of them are simply going down to have their remand extended, which they enjoy as they can see people and try to get contraband. Surely a video-link would save the mad bus ride and allow me to enjoy the beauty of the trees on the Eastern Road!

Work is where we spend most of our days, it should be a place where we are energised and empowered to be our best; a place where satisfaction and rewards are created. That is not always the case, humiliation and even sexual harassment do occur and some have become so cynical and fed up that they have reversed the sexual harassment and are sleeping their way up the corporate ladder. This particular tactic whilst very profitable for some is of course really upsetting the rest of the work force.

Perhaps your lunch hour could provide some solace, there are certainly many places where a peaceful meal with friends can be pleasant. The problem occurs if you have some other jobs to do; the endless queues in the bank, or bills to be paid. Some of our fellow travellers are polite and professional, others make our blood boil with their arrogance and rudeness sending us back to work with a sour taste in our mouths. This makes it a challenge for us to be polite to our customers.

Time to go home, back to the traffic, the road rage, and the effort to avoid the jitney juggernauts. There are no flowering trees now, just cars, trucks and pollution from multiple exhausts. It becomes tempting to stop for a drink, this could make me feel better but all my family at home feel a lot worse. The anger increases when the police stop cars to check the vehicle registration, I understand the need for law and order, but I am tired I am just going home, the thoughts turn to questions.

‘Why me? Why not search for thieves and killers?’

It is so critical that we work with the police why erode that trust by “yukking up my vexation” on my way home in the ever slowing traffic.

Let’s hope everyone is returning home to a loving, happy family, it is a dream that we all aspire to; but if home is harping and hateful your mental state will continue to spiral downwards.

There are, of course, many strategies for dealing with the chaos of normal life - exercise, positive thinking, a bit of good luck, social support, prayer and spiritual help and of course even mental health professionals can assist with changing thought patterns and talk therapy.

When I am away in other countries and admit to being a psychiatrist, I often hear the refrain: “There must be no work for you in The Bahamas, it is a paradise.”

It could be, it should be but right now there are so many mental health issues facing the nation that a whole psychiatric convention would struggle to know where to begin, let alone the few trained mental health professionals available.

Not to worry the day is over it is time for bed.

I really hope we can all sleep well.

• Dr Mike Neville is a forensic psychiatrist who has practised for more than 40 years in The Bahamas, working at Sandilands, the prison and in private practice. Comments and responses to mneville@tribunemedia.net.


banker 2 years, 5 months ago

I have just recently left the island. That simple act has shown me the toxicity -- mental, physical and environmental, of New Providence. It is so very pleasant to live and work in an environment that produces a few orders of magnitude of less stress. Things work off island. Life is rich in human experience, from genuine interaction of neighbours, young and old, to happy people at their workplaces.

The barista where I get my coffee knows that I am Bahamian, so she is trying to create a palm tree with cappuccino art in my morning coffee. My boss drove me around to look at used cars so that I do not have to rely on public transit when I work late. But I actually enjoy the city at night. I am safe as I wait for the bus, or the tram. I can choose one of many ethnic restaurants for an inexpensive dinner. At 9:00 PM, I remark to the waitress that no one is in the restaurant, and she tells me that I am too early for the crowds.

Dr. Mike, I detect that you live on the edge of sadness. I know the big reason why. I can't imagine losing flesh and blood to violence. Even your work, albeit rewarding, cannot be very uplifting, dealing with the vagaries of mental illness - especially those in criminal institutions that are not that enlightened or have the infrastructure to deal with sick people on a humanistic level.

I would seriously suggest an extended off island vacation. On the way to my new job, I took a couple of weeks off to decompress. A ex-client who became a friend, gave me the use of a gite on his property in the south of France -- Provence. It was a charming old stone, farm outbuilding converted to a small apartment. I woke up to sunlight streaming through the open window along with the scent of lavender on the summer breeze. It was the first sleep in a long time that was peaceful and free of stress dreams. A cat was sitting in the window, catching the rays. The air was as a fresh as the ozone freshness of my bed sheets. I knew that I would catch a breakfast of coffee, croissants and jam.

It felt like it was a million miles from Nassau, and the feeling of wholeness, goodness, restfulness and peace was palpable. You need a vacation, sir.


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