While one may wonder whether someone has to write an open letter to the media, addressed to some higher-up in order for action to be taken with respect to issues plaguing his/her community, Lisa Budhu would probably be gratified that some attention is being given to her appeal.
However, one would hope that the help being offered would neither be piecemeal not selective, as there are umpteen needs in these Black Bush Polder communities; needs that have existed for years, and for which a number of NGOs, including The Caribbean Voice, have made attempts to address within the scope of their limited resources.
In fact, in many ways, BBP reflects a socio-economically depressed community overall.
Besides those touched upon by Lisa Budhu, there are other enervating issues that saturate Black Bush Polder, including rape, mentioned by Ms. Budhu, along with incest, domestic violence, alcoholism, child abuse, lack of coping skills, depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, suicide ideation and attempts, along with suicide itself, lack of coping skills and low self-esteem.
So, along with all the ideas mooted by various letter writers, and all the promises made thus far by the First Lady and Cabinet members, there is also a critical need to address these psycho-social issues.
For starters, there is need to have a psych ward with a counsellor at the Mibicuri Hospital. As well, BBP is ideal for both a lay counsellor-training programme that would ensure proactive mental health responders throughout every community and the Friendship bench manned by talk therapists, perhaps senior citizens as in Zimbabwe, where this highly successful measure was pioneered. As well, BBP is where the need is greatest for pesticide suicide training regarding safety of use, storage, and disposal, as well as steps to mitigate ingestion of poison while medical attention is being sought. BBP is certainly an area where counsellors in schools are absolutely necessary, even if it’s one counsellor serving the five schools as an initial effort.
The fact is that BBP typifies the reality referenced in the 2018 Lancet Commission report on mental health and intensified by the pandemic, which, among other things, pointed out that mental disorders and related issues (suicide, rape/incest, child abuse, gender-based violence, alcoholism and substance abuse) are on the rise globally, resulting in massive economic costs, including healthcare costs, crime costs, welfare costs, social costs, the costs to families (depression, anxiety, dysfunctional relationships, toxic behaviour and so on) and the added burden to both costs and standards of living.
The simple fact is that when mental health care lags, it acts as a drag on all other sectors of the economy and on the overall quality of life. On the other hand, addressing these issues can reduce annual physical health care costs by 20 per cent, as well as provide significant savings relating to crime, social life, welfare, families, overall dysfunction.
Thus, in addition to what is mentioned above, consideration should also be given to programmes to address substance abuse, provide mentoring to the young and help for batterers, and deal with relationship dysfunction and toxic masculinity.