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Pulling together for the common good essential

Monday, September 14, 2020

It surely is no surprise that the COVID-19 pandemic is leading to all sorts of emotional and psychological stresses and strains, having changed in ways unimagined – over just seven/eight months — how people live, work, study, and relate to each other.

We note the Sunday Observer's report of preliminary results from a recent study by UNICEF Jamaica and the Caribbean Policy Research Institute (CaPRI) indicating tensions within families, and problems for children in particular, directly related to COVID-19 challenges.

Loss of income, fear of the unknown, and sheer frustration can cause perfectly reasonable adults to become trapped in unreasoning behaviour.

We are told that the study shows adults are “shouting, yelling, screaming, or calling their child names more frequently than they did prior to the COVID-19 restrictions” and that children were being hit more frequently.

Says Ms Janet Cupidon Quallo, child protection specialist at UNICEF Jamaica: “What this points to is tensions in (the) family. You don't have to explain why COVID-19 and lockdowns would lead to anxiety. Sometimes that anxiety is taken out on those closest to us, the most vulnerable who can't defend themselves very well, and those are the children for the most part.”

And, from counselling psychologist Dr Patrece Charles we hear of the need to be our 'brother's keeper', not just materially but emotionally and psychologically.

It's a sad reality in Jamaica that mental health issues are taboo for many people, not to be treated or spoken of in the same way as physical ailments.

Says Dr Charles: “We need to look out for certain red flags with our co-workers. Those co-workers working continuously without taking a break. Those co-workers that have drastic mood swings and respond in a very exaggerated way to incidents at work — impulsiveness, anger — it could be a sign of post-traumatic stress due to COVID-19.

“It could be a sign of depression — co-workers that are not turning up to work on time and so I think in this time for COVID-19 we need to start just not looking out for ourselves, but looking out for each other...”

Obviously, that principle of caring one for another must exist everywhere, not just the workplace. Neighbours, for example, must keep looking out for each other. Friends and relatives must stay in touch with each other, no matter what.

With schools about to reopen, stresses and strains for adults and children alike will become even more acute.

The ultra-dependence on digital equipment for online teaching and learning, and reduced emphasis on face-to-face interaction, will take its toll.

For sure, as Dr Charles has said, not all children will be able to cope with online schooling. Obviously, inadequacy of connectivity, tools, and resources will be a problem for many families.

However, even with connectivity and material resources readily available, some children are likely to become alienated and unable to focus.

The authorities at the level of the Ministry of Education, school and community leadership will face difficulties as never before.

In the end, how the society copes, may well depend on how everyone, even those of us without assigned roles, are able to find it within us to pull together for the common good.