By Raymond Syms, Editor
There’s still somewhat of a stigma attached to issues related to mental health. But the times are changing. The Covid-19 pandemic has brought such matters to the fore as everyone has been dealing with its effects.
Depression is one of the more common mental health disorders which Diego Martin parishioner Maureen Velox has experienced. She’s published a book on her suffering titled Fighting the Big D.
Velox describes the book as “not about a cure, but it is about my struggles with the disease from when I began to get sick and did not know what was happening to me, to my diagnosis followed by my treatment and then overcoming it…by God’s grace.”
She adds, “It also takes a look at the importance of family support and unity, as well as one’s faith, along with a brief look at our health care system in Trinidad and Tobago for mental health patients.”
Just 74 pages, the book can be read in one sitting as the chapters are short and Velox’s writing is simple and conversational. Each chapter describes what she is experiencing in her struggle: ‘Insomnia’, ‘Entering a deep dark hole’, ‘Being hospitalized and institutionalized’ which is the longest chapter in the book, ‘Support of family and friends’, ‘The journey back to me’, and ‘Measures to be put in place mentally’.
Two aspects Velox emphasises are the importance of family and the role of one’s faith. “My situation placed an enormous amount of stress on my family. Unless you’ve dealt with a person suffering from severe depression, you can’t understand how difficult it can be for the families of these people.”
She writes in the chapter, ‘Maintaining Family Unity And Strength’ that “Family support is extremely important on the road to recovery for anyone suffering a mental illness. Their love and understanding is vital to helping the person find their way back.”
On her faith in God, Velox says it was shaken and, in the chapter ‘Rebuilding One’s Faith’, she admits the process of rebuilding that faith and self-confidence was not easy. “It takes a lot of soul-searching and reflection”.
She recalls attending a Catholic Charismatic Renewal conference at The University of the West Indies that was “like walking into a blast of sunshine after days of darkness because it suddenly hit me like a ton of bricks…I felt like the Lord was speaking directly to me, like He had put this together to give me a message.”
In the last chapter, ‘Improving The Quality Of Care And Service For the Mentally Ill’, Velox examines the challenges of outpatient clinic care and urges health authorities to recognise the rights of outpatients.
She puts forward some suggestions like ensuring more than one day being allotted to mental health patients, the establishment of a clinic for only the mentally ill, for patients to be separated by groups for visits, that “doctors should not be just willing to give out pills. They need to actively seek their patients well-being”, and for support staff to be given extensive training.
Velox ends the book with ten health living tips, a few of which were: Take time to pray and reflect daily, Eat lots of fruits and vegetables, Fight insomnia with gentle rocking, the sound of running water or the sound of rain falling (sound therapy), and Indulge in cheerful conversations and amusements.
Fighting the Big D is the culmination of Velox’s dream “to provide something of substance to others to help edify and entertain, while educating them on an illness that we cannot ignore; one which afflicts so many people all over the world.”
Copies are available from the author. Maureen Velox can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org, 689-6546 or visit the Facebook page, ‘fightingthebigD’.