By Iñigo ‘Naughty’ Zenicazelaya
THIS past weekend, two of our northern islands, Abaco and Grand Bahama, bore the brunt of a vicious superstorm named Dorian.
Hurricane Dorian will go down as one of the most destructive forces to ever pass through our islands in modern history. As I write, the death toll from his Hurricane is at 30 but as Minister of Health Dr Duane Sands has warned, that number will no doubt climb unimaginably higher.
Recently, after the loss of a cherished coworker, our office got a visit from Dr Wayne Thompson who listened, spoke with, and worked to guide us through our grief.
Based on my conversation with him and on conversations and observations I’ve had, it seems many in our country are right now in various states of denial, anger, bargaining and depression; they are the first four of the five stages of grief.
If we were not living through such an unprecedented level of death and destruction from Dorian, I might be speculating about how Dorian tried to destroy our country but “missed” because “he een catch us in Nassau”.
Yes, New Providence has been spared, but our ‘heart and soul’ have been decimated.
I’M IN DENIAL
I get upset while trying to reach close and distant relatives in Freeport and Green Turtle Cay right now.
Sure, our phone and electrical services are just now starting to resemble something familiar in the capital, but both GB and Abaco are in veritable darkness.
Yes, though we have been getting timely updates from NEMA, there undoubtedly exists a visceral yearning for more information from our leaders.
How is the search for survivors going? What about all those names of the missing? What is the current death toll? Is there any truth to talk of many deceased bodies seen in streets but uncounted? Is there any truth to all the talk of looting? Is our government doing all it possibly can to help survivors who are waiting, hoping, clinging to life and praying to be rescued?
When I look at social media - the volatile voice notes, perturbing pictures and violent videos - I recognise that our national hell persists.
People are desperate to live. And we, the ‘lucky’ onlookers, are desperate to help them live.
Maybe there’s more we can do. Maybe we should send more relief supplies. Maybe we should plead with more countries with disaster recovery experience to come in and help.
What do we need to do to save our brothers and sisters? Because we are willing to do it.
I’M BEGGING AND BORROWING
It’s hard watching the news. It’s hard reading the newspaper. It’s exhausting looking at Facebook, and Twitter, and WhatsApp.
I’m grateful for all the help and support our country is getting. There is a long list of people who deserve – and will get in time – accolades. But none of that matters right now.
I’M HONESTLY DEPRESSED
After a natural disaster, research shows survivors can have psychological fallouts for weeks, months – even lifetimes.
Families, churches, community members, psychologists and school officials, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), the US National Guard, Coast Guard, global volunteer first responders, construction crews, etc, aren’t all that is needed to assist the Bahamas, in rebuilding and recovering after the ravages of Hurricane Dorian.
The nation will also have to rebuild and recover psychologically.
Often after natural disasters, earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, tsunamis, wild fires, etc, survivors tend to minimize mental health impacts of natural disasters.
It’s referred to as the “we’re all right” mentality.
According to Susan Clayton, lead author for the American Psychological Association, and her 2017 report, “Mental Health and Our Changing Climate.”
The report urges local governments to create preparedness plans for psychological recovery, just as they do for medical attention and physical infrastructure post natural disasters.
It seems as if psychological recovery is on the national radar, as I’ve heard Prime Minister Minnis mention it several times on his nightly press briefings (which he should be commended for, by the way).
Hopefully it holds more water than certain campaign promises about mandatory evacuation legislation. (First and only political jab this week, I promise.)
The talented mental health professionals that we have in this country have an opportunity to help the nation recover mentally.
Right now, we need all the psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists, pastors, preachers and mental health professionals we can find.
Acceptance, I’m afraid, which is the final stage of grief, is a long way away.
“God promises to make something good, out of the storms that bring devastation to your life.”