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The state of the country’s economy is no secret. There have been cutbacks by government, layoffs in several industries and sectors and some companies have closed down. Many citizens have been finding themselves crunching numbers, almost daily. Calculating every dollar and cent they have and may be able to spend.
The financial situation has left many citizens concerned and changing their lifestyle. For others it is now the genesis of mental health issues, in particular anxiety and depression.
“With the economic downturn, we are getting more people who are frustrated and also manifesting as more, sort of, emotional problems.”
Secretary of the Association of Psychiatrists of Trinidad and Tobago and doctor at the Barataria Wellness Center, Dr Varma Deyalsingh said the recessionn has had a big impact on the spate of depression in this country. He told us that there is an epidemic of depression globally.
Trinidad and Tobago he said is not exempt. Some in this country, who are depressed, see no way out except to end their own lives.
“In Trinidad we found that, like for a year for attempted suicide in the hospitals you may get about a thousand to twelve hundred people, in the three major hospitals ,going in for attempted suicide…The government right now is tabulating the figures for suicide across the nation”, said Dr Deyalsingh.
He said with the economic downturn, this could get worse.
Back in May of this year, Finance Minister Colm Imbert told Cnc3’s Golda Lee Bruce in an interview, that some 5,000 people had lost their jobs. The Opposition claimed job losses totaled 25,000 but that was staunchly denied by the Labour Minister. Just last month, the Ministry listed the figure close to 6,000.
Whatever, the statistics maybe Dr Deyalsingh said its clearly hurting the health of many citizens.
“Let’s say you lost your job, how you going to cope for your family, all that adds to the level of anxiety on society. So with recession and economic downturn we have to look out now for the frustration of the people manifesting in emotional, mental illness. Because you’ll get anxiety, you’re going to get depression.
So anytime there’s an economic downturn you have to kinda look out for whats going on among the people. You have to get some sort of social buffer for those people”
With more workers being sent home in companies and sectors and a level of financial insecurity prevailing, Dr Deyalsingh said people would feel helpless.
Aside from depression and anxiety, some may even begin lashing out. This would lead to an upswing in anger and aggression related issues.
“Your interpersonal relationships with others may be affected and that inter-personal relationship could be with wife, husband or people at work. So you find now people are getting anger management issues easier because you have so much on your mind, so much stress on your mind, that it comes out. So then you see people with road rage, you see people with what you call desk rage, which is now in the work place, people are now aggressive to one another…all those are increasing”,said Dr Deyalsingh.
The psychologist said its the duty of state agencies and health institutions to get people to come in and offer them a social intervention to prevent the situation from escalating.
“So as a country right we know recession, we know economic hardship will bring on certain mental issues, so we now have to see how we can reach those people. Offer them some sort of help,some sort of retraining, some sort of hope to ride out the recession.”
Since the first mass retrenchment of workers at Arcelor Mittal back in 2015, the Labour Ministry has held job expos for persons on the bread line.
The expos saw retrenched workers filing out applications for vacancies at private companies. The Ministry also has set up a registry where retrenched and unemployed persons can register in the hope of finding jobs. To date close to 600 are in that database.
However, Dr Deyalsingh said those who have lost their jobs or who maybe facing economic hardship should be encouraged to talk about their feelings. “We found that even adults who are depresssed, they don’t reach out for help. So you find even three quarters of the persons who are depressed they wouldn’t want to come to see a therapist.”
He added family members needed to look at for signs and symptoms and encourage their loved ones to open up either to a doctor or a trusted friend/relative.
Dr Deyalsingh said if talk therapy does not work, then medication could be used. He said for those whose mental health is affected by the recession need to know there is hope.