By Kaelanne Jordan
Clinical Traumatologist Hanif Benjamin has observed that depression has already set in for some persons due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“You don’t want to wake up on a morning; you cannot eat the way you used to; the level of sleep has been interrupted. You may also find yourself eating too much. You may find yourself withdrawn from the people around you. You may find that things are just confusing to you and no matter what you do, you cannot seem to put rationality to your daily thinking,” Benjamin said.
Benjamin was feature speaker and facilitator at Thursday’s (April 16) Zoom Webinar on Mental Health and Coping for Business Owners. The free webinar was hosted by the Arima Business Association, Greater Tunapuna Chamber of Industry and Commerce, San Juan Business Association and Supermarket Association of Trinidad and Tobago.
In his talk, Benjamin stressed while this is a “normal” reaction to a disaster like COVID-19, and persons are “entitled” to react, the “challenge” is when persons go into a “moment” of depression or anxiety and “stay there”.
“A lot of us see doom and gloom, ‘What if, what will, how will’, so some of us have literally stopped in our track in terms of planning for tomorrow because we are not sure what tomorrow will bring. And that is a dangerous place to be in,” Benjamin said.
A big part of reducing the anxiety, he recommended, is to “accept” the situation.
“The longer we delay accepting our painful fact, the more you will be anxious and the less you will be prepared for tomorrow.”
Talking to colleagues, families and friends is critical as this reduces the level of “individualised anxiety”.
So, if you are experiencing anxiety or depression, what do you do?
Well Benjamin said the first line of defense is your family.
“Long before you come to me for therapy, the people in your social environment are going to be the ones to help.”
He continued, “What do I mean by that? It means that someone should be able to say ‘You are not behaving like yourself’. Someone should be able to say ‘Aye I find Melissa ent eat today the way she normally eats; Melissa is everything alright?’ And that is important. The people who surround you should be able to because most times we don’t see it ourselves,” Benjamin explained.
As persons are now required to isolate themselves, Benjamin clarified that isolation does not mean disconnected. “You can connect with people; family and you have to be deliberate about that because if you are not you can further isolate yourself into this doldrum of darkness.”
Participant Marcus Girdharie commented that his anxiety was not so much on getting up or going to bed with that anxiety but on not knowing what tomorrow might be.
“How does one really plan for something that is COVID: unseen, unheard of?” he asked.
“That is a powerful question,” Benjamin responded. While he agreed that we don’t know what tomorrow may bring, he asserted there is solace in what individuals can bring to tomorrow.
“You can determine what you want tomorrow to look like for you as best as you can. There are two things one must consider: that is the things that I can control and the things I cannot control. You need to take charge of the things you can control and plan for that and work that so that tomorrow…you are ready to deal with what comes,” he said.