By Lara Pickford-Gordon
“The long tail of Covid” is how Archbishop Jason Gordon describes some of the societal effects which may be linked to the two years of living through the Covid-19 pandemic.
Archbishop Gordon was responding to a question on the Ask the Archbishop live chat on Instagram Wednesday, May 11 about the recent “grievous deaths involving children and teens” and his message to society mourning their deaths. The St Dominic’s RC, Penal parish community remains traumatised after receiving news on Tuesday, May 10, that 12-year-old Levi Lewis, a pupil of the graduating Standard Five Secondary Entrance Assessment class and his mother Abiola Cudjoe were found murdered at their Lachoos Road, Penal home.
Archbishop Gordon told the host Dominique Heffes-Doon, Catholic Media Services Ltd Integrated Communications Teams Lead, he did not think anyone has “pieced together the trauma of young and older people being confined in situations that are toxic for extended periods of time”.
He commented on the change with the village no longer raising the child as parents started to “take umbrage with anyone getting involved with their child”. This has led to the isolation of families and there were little support systems.
Archbishop Gordon said when the two years of the pandemic are added to this, the situation is very toxic. “In a toxic situation, you go to school, you going to work, you come home, minimal interaction. Put us in the same place for three months with no mobility whatsoever for anybody, that is a pressure cooker.”
He identified criminality, low productivity, and underperforming students as effects of the pandemic. There were many people not getting the help they needed, and this is a “developmental and moral challenge”, Archbishop Gordon said.
In the wider societal context of such incidents, she asked what the Catholic school system and parishes can do to offer support. “The schools have to be first responders to children in distress,” Archbishop Gordon responded.
The Education Ministry’s Report on Existing Systems to Reduce Indiscipline and Violence in Schools has listed 16 schools that are high risk, and having two of the following: high percentage of Form 1 students who scored under 30 per cent in the Secondary Entrance Assessment, high levels of indiscipline, high absenteeism, low levels of Caribbean Secondary Entrance Certificate achievement. At least seven schools exhibited all characteristics. Increased police patrols were assigned to 15 of them.
Archbishop Gordon said the schools needed trauma counselling to contain the violence. Other interventions may also be needed such as medication and a developmental programme “to resocialise them so we can get them back on track”. Meditation can also be used in schools and society.
Providing further ideas for society he said, “I think if we could get everybody to take a five minute pause every day and just breathe…if you [are] religious use the word maranatha and breathe with it, if you are not, just stop and breathe…find your own word if you need to, short syllables.” He added people could start with a five-minute pause. He recommended a “buddy system”, someone to call on in times of distress to vent.
Archbishop Gordon disclosed how he recuperated after testing positive for Covid on April 28. He said the quarantine was fine and the isolation “did not kill”.
He was feeling well enough to participate online in the Annual Plenary Meeting 2022 of bishops of the Antilles Episcopal Conference, May 1–5. The rest of his time was spent praying, resting, reading, and watching movies.
He said, “the time worked really well then halfway through, once I was stable, I then went out to Blanchisseuse where I got some eye tonic with that beautiful scenery, fresh air and all the rest of it.” He added, “I got some good sunlight. I went out every day and walked for a little bit out in the sun so I can’t say it was terrible.”
He still has a persistent cough which persons recovering from Covid can have, but quipped to Heffes-Doon and the viewers online, “if I start coughing, I am not dying. I am alright.”
Archbishop Gordon said one of the things he missed the most was celebrating Mass. He resumed 6.30 a.m. Masses at Archbishop’s House chapel Tuesday, May 10.
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