By Dr Margaret Nakhid-Chatoor
No-one can deny that these are crucial times in the history of this country. The present threat to our health in the face of the COVID-19, and the implementation of various important measures and guidelines by the government, are necessary to flatten the rising curve of infected persons. One of these measures has been the closure of schools and the confinement of children and persons to their homes.
Recently, I had cause to visit several primary schools in the South and East to see the fantastic job that many teachers and principals have done, to inform the students of the risks of the virus and the management strategies that should be undertaken. The schools were cleaner than I had ever seen and some of the children wore their masks.
Since I was at each school for some hours, I also witnessed the importance of the breakfast and lunch meals that were provided to those children in need and the care that some teachers took to address off-task behaviours and oversee students on the playground during the lunch and break periods.
For some children, the schools were sanctuaries and a departure away from the stresses and trauma of the home.
Therefore, it is with some trepidation when I consider this necessary yet absolute confinement. It is a fact that during this time of crisis, homes will not be safe places for some children and will not be able to sustain or support them—no provision of meals, unsupervised times, engagement in unhealthy activities and increased exposure to verbal, sexual and physical abuse.
Home is often associated with feelings of safety and security, both psychological and physical and while the familial space seeks to curb the contagion, we must also be mindful that it may increase trauma and psychological ill-health.
We cannot assume that all families will be buying up needed supplies, and parents or responsible adults will stay at home with kids. No work, no pay is the dilemma faced by many.
Can the authorities possibly consider places where children can access meals and open more hotlines for callers in psychological distress? Health workers and social workers will be hard-pressed to be committed to other families whilst trying to protect their own, so that bonuses should be given to those persons who report for extra duties so that the necessary supplies and prescription medicines can be given to vulnerable families, especially those in rural areas without access to updated information or with reduced contact to facilities.
As a society, this is a time for us to be our brother and sister’s keeper and to look out, not only for our own families but for those in need—perhaps providing supplies and necessities to those without, being mindful of the cautionary sanitisation practices.
The current emergency of the COVID-19 threat requires that we be extraordinary persons by our extraordinary actions and offer support to those in need, especially the children and the vulnerable confined to their homes.
Dr Nakhid-Chatoor is a clinical and educational psychologist, and immediate past President of the Trinidad and Tobago Association of Psychologists (TTAP).