EDITOR, The Tribune,
I have never held myself out to be a psychiatrist or anything of the sort. My common and every day experiences along with interpersonal relationships have led me to the conclusion that a large number of Bahamians are suffering from assorted forms of mental illnesses. I further submit that we are good at denying and hiding the symptoms from ourselves. We hardly ever confide in others or talk about our internal demons because we risk being called crazy or worse.
As a direct result many of us have pent up emotional dysfunction and stress. The arrival of the pandemic over two years ago and the devastation of Dorian brought thousands of Bahamians and their households to the brink of the cliff. Many jumped or were pushed over into the abyss and beyond.
We have experienced: economic and financial dislocation; critical food supply and sustainability to the point where many were obliged to toe the breadlines; educational facilities, in house were shuttered; persons could not properly bury their deceased ones; we were obliged to undergo multiple curfews and lock downs; recreational centres and restaurants were also shuttered and staff sent home for months. All in all mental unease obviously became the order of the day.
Bahamians who were catching hell before the above events quickly started to do so after their arrival, back to back. While the economy is showing signs of a robust return to normalcy the average person is still trying to catch him/herself. In the meantime accumulated bills and debts are literally stressing out many people. Marriages and relationships have crumbled or are facing serious strains for any number of reasons. Children who would have been deprived of in-person education have also suffered from the lack thereof and they too are stressed out.
Homelessness is not an attractive societal issue and few of us talk about it much less actually do something other than talk. I invite you to take a casual drive through the inner city areas of New Providence and even in the downtown area and you will often see gaggles of unkempt looking individuals walking about aimlessly and mumbling to themselves. I have seen individuals apparently living in abandoned buildings or derelict motor vehicles parked in yards. Mind you, I am not suggesting that Covid and Dorian are to be exclusively blamed for this increase but they sure did not help in a positive way.
We have also seen a troubling increase in suspected suicide cases; interpersonal assaults; batteries and alleged homicides. Many Bahamians are now conditioned to hearing ‘bad’ news on a daily basis. Something has got to give before we have even more societal explosions. I do not agree that we should build a new prison block/complex at this time. It is rumored that the cost to build such a facility would be around $45m. That money could be better spent on facilities for the homeless and mental health care and treatment.
The Davis administration has its work cut out for it and he will have to rise to the occasion in spectacular form, as I fully expect that he will. He is a direct product of the inner city, Rolle Avenue just north of Wulff Road and would have seen multiple cases of homelessness and deprivations first hand. I too would have spent time, not in the inner city per se, but close enough to observe the process.
Alcoholism and inordinate drug abuse also play a major role in mental instability and stress. There are far too many liquor stores and bar rooms here in New Providence licensed and unlicensed. It would appear that there are no more publicly drunken persons than ever before. It maybe that economical and societal stress are leading men and women to the bottle big time.
The above are all root symptoms of the hidden consequences. All is not doom and gloom, however, once we collectively confront these debilitating issues. The hidden consequences must be publicly debated but, more importantly, internally within ourselves. Until then, we will collectively bark at the Moon and suffer the hidden consequences.
Ortland H Bodie, Jr.
March 13, 2022