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We need a social collective spirit

By Dr Margaret Nakhid-Chatoor

A social collective is needed in this country right now—a coming together of groups, organisations, communities, and individuals who can work for the benefit of the common good.

At this moment, the priorities of this common good are a healthy population; decreasing the mortality rates; ensuring all households have basic necessities and that people are safe.

The disquiet that is happening instead, the constant criticisms, blaming, shaming, and finger-pointing has to be abandoned in this time of crisis. All of our leaders, whether they are political or religious leaders, in the labour unions, the economic forecasters, all of these persons must reach a mutual agreement and exude a sense of calm, motivation, hope, and positivity in this pandemic. The unity and social collective stance of these various leaders must be far more powerful than the sectional forces and partisan interests that drive them apart.

A social collective is situational, coming together when there is an urgent need as in the present pandemic where many lives are being lost. In this collective, individuals and groups can join at any time and these groups usually have similar interests and concerns.

Persons in a social collective may not agree with each other or have the same objectives of governance. In the interest of these times when our population is at its lowest morale, where families are burying their loved ones every day; where persons are filled with fear and anxiety and there are many job losses and/or cuts in pay cheques, there has to be a unified approach and vision that is shared and the joining of forces to combat this dreaded disease.

What we are seeing instead are knee-jerk reactions to every effort that is tried, and which may not produce the desired results that some people want. What is this distracting noise all about?

In one of his speeches, Barack Obama (2009) stated that in times of crisis, “persons must participate with a spirit of tolerance and compromise and place the interests of the people of your country and the legitimate workings of the political process above your party. Without these ingredients of tolerance and compromise, elections alone do not make for true democracy”.

Our society has been deeply affected by the coronavirus and its ravaging spread. Beyond the immediate impacts on health, security of jobs, and incomes, the epidemic is increasing people’s anxiety and worry, affecting their social relationships, personal security, and sense of belonging.

Immediate short-term government responses where there is coordinated networking with other leaders are needed to save lives and livelihoods.

This includes building social connections and social capital; opening up new ways of working and living; and reinforcing the capacity of public services and the existing social safety nets.

The psychological impacts of social distancing and the quarantining measures have resurfaced in a major way and are shaped by particular household and individual circumstances.

There have been many job and income losses, and these are compounded by any existing medical conditions or comorbidities in the household; family separations and the illness or loss of loved ones. These risk factors have led to, or increased mental symptoms such as depression, anxiety, panic attacks, suicidality, fear, and frustration.

Please visit to access free services for mental health if you or someone you know, needs help to cope with what is happening. We are still here for you.

In the short term, our social collective focus—both group and individual—must be on vulnerable groups in the society: the elderly living alone; persons in poor health; single-parent women and men who have lost their jobs.

Let the call be made to businesses in communities to adopt a family or a neighbour and to be vigilant to those who live in social and economic deprivation.

If possible, provide mobile vans in rural areas where social workers can conduct needs-assessments of children and adults to lessen their risk factors of ill health and lack of basic necessities and instead, increase their protective factors.

This is not a time either for businesses to increase prices on essential supplies but to be compassionate and overly so, to those in distress and provide income support for vulnerable groups, such as sick workers and their families.

Let us put aside our differences and work together to build back our society.

The present crisis of Covid-19 that we are facing can have one of two effects: it can turn people against each other and society and its leaders, filling them with deep resentment and self-pity or it can turn us outwards to help others—to have a social collective spirit—one that is powerful and unified and seeks the best interests of our country and its people. Be safe. Take care.


Dr Nakhid-Chatoor is a clinical and educational psychologist, and immediate past President of the Trinidad and Tobago Association of Psychologists (TTAP).