Will crisis increase mental health problems? Consumer Concerns
By Eileen Cox
Stabroek News
July 28, 2002

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“Abandon hope all ye who enter here.” Years and years ago I was employed at the Lands and Mines Department and many a time the words of Dante came to my mind as I entered the office, which was then located under the Victoria Law Courts.

Today consumers in Guyana are abandoning hope that in their lifetime it will be possible to dream and see their dream come true. There is catastrophe around us but business goes on as usual. Nothing has emerged that will give us hope of a turnaround, of attention to consumer concerns, of a good future shared by all.

It has long been recognised that the Westminster type of governance does not suit the Caribbean. Yet we embrace it and refuse to see the consequences. There are those who live in fear night after night and those who will not step out of their homes lest they are caught up in turmoil.

With all this anxiety and fear there is likely to be more mental illness. Dr Walter Chin has drawn our attention to the fact that there are still many myths and misunderstandings about mental illness and those who suffer from it. In his article in the Sunday Stabroek of November 5, 2000, he related that it has been estimated that five of the ten leading causes of illness in the world in the early 1990’s were psychiatric in origin and that depression was the most frequent.

In Guyana today there is ample reason for depression. “What’s good?” we are asked and invariably the answer is “Nothing.”

What is frightening is that, according to Dr Chin, mental illness affects children as often as adults. We can think of the children who are pressured by their parents into performing well at examinations, way above their capabilities. Unable to understand their problems or to confide in anyone, these children are doomed. When the behaviour of a child changes, the parent/s should seek medical advice.

So what treatment is there to allow them to recover and to live normal productive lives? The Observation Ward in Georgetown caters for the mentally ill and drug addicts, a bad mixture. There is no therapy, as far as I know. Not much attention can be paid to individual cases. A relative may try to indicate to a doctor that the injection he gives does not agree with the patient but the doctor refuses to listen. Drugs administered may cause temporary speech defect or the desire to be violent. Eventually the patient may be referred to the Fort Canje hospital.

Dr Chin ended his article with these words “If hospitalisation is required, it is usually only for a short period.” But there are patients who for some valid reason cannot return to their homes. How do we rescue them? With a little thought we can find an answer.

How do you ensure that each patient receives the treatment that will bring relief? In his book How to Get Well Dr Paavo Airola indicates that hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) is involved in schizophrenia and states quite firmly that the illness stems from an under-supply of blood to the brain. For this reason, he advises that the blood sugar level should always be constant. He recommends several small meals each day. Is there in Guyana any means of testing the truth of this assertion?

While there is life there is hope. Though feelings of despondency may overtake us when we read the daily newspapers, there is still the will to work with others at the grassroot level and assert a commitment to brotherhood and sisterhood.

“Hope springs eternal in the human breast!”