Health and wellness, a national imperativeMonday, June 21, 2021
Often we ask our fellow Jamaicans, “Everything alright? Everything criss?”, and the recurrence of the word “everything” is by design. We know that in order for our fellow Jamaicans to be actually well, everything has to be in order. Without attributing the formal terminology, we intrinsically know this 'everything' to be the five main dimensions of wellness.
Said differently, it is imperative that the dimensions of wellness are known and well-managed before we can truly say “everything criss”.
The five main dimensions of wellness are physical, emotional, social, spiritual, and intellectual. However, we will focus on spiritual, intellectual, and emotional wellness in this piece because of the relationship between the three.
Jamaica is said to have the most churches per square mile of any country in the world. By this fact, it should be safe to say Jamaica has sound spiritual integrity, right? Well, no, not really. Spiritual wellness refers to being connected to something greater than one's self and having a set of values, principles, morals, and beliefs that provide a sense of purpose and meaning to life. To be spiritually well is to allow one's self to be guided by these principles. Having many churches is inconsequential if the citizens are not guided by the rules of the institution.
Intellectual wellness refers to one's scholastic involvement in culture, skills, and other forms of education which evokes creativity and evolution. As such, we often label a person an intellectual when he has a vested interest in many areas and are now knowledgeable enough to apply and impart that knowledge.
There are many people in Jamaica who fit the description and usually become opinion leaders who occupy spaces in our judicial, educational, and political sectors. Unfortunately, by definition, they can still be very much unwell as the other four dimensions are still unaccounted for — which can spell disaster for our country.
The first area of assessment for medical professionals when attempting to treat patients suffering from mental health complications is the patient's emotions. This is because our emotional wellness best reflects the status of the other dimensions of wellness. Emotional wellness is the awareness, understanding, and acceptance of your emotions, and the ability to deal with challenges and change.
A 2017 case study conducted by the Pan American Health Organization revealed that depression and anxiety disorders are among the most common mental health concerns facing the population of Jamaica. Around three per cent of Jamaicans have a depressive disorder and 4.1 per cent have an anxiety disorder. Since the advent of COVID-19, and all that comes with it, one can only imagine how much the numbers have multiplied.
In attempting to achieve wellness in the three listed dimensions, individuals often find themselves conflicted. It is the curse of the intellectual to rationalise and applies logic to everything. So, in many cases, they find themselves challenging or debunking spirituality as the willingness to believe clashes with that which is established. For as long as religion is led by faith — and faith is believing in the absence of certainty — the intellectual will struggle with spirituality unless the individual can separate the two.
I'd like to offer these intellectuals a quote from Aristotle, “The more you know, the more you realise you don't know.” A true intellectual will come to terms with the fact that some things are just absent explanation, but they are nonetheless.
Jamaica, everything criss? I don't suppose it is, and even if you were to argue otherwise, we can always be better. I propose that we make health and wellness a national imperative and embrace it as yet another means by which we can become better citizens and better neighbours to better the future of our nation. If more people are criss/well, just imagine what it means for our socio-economic activities. We would need not be as dependent on foreign investments or aid as we will have our greatest and most valuable resource yet, our fellow Jamaicans.
Hugh Graham is Member of Parliament for St Catherine North Western and CEO of Paramount Trading Jamaica Limited.
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