By Crystal Johnson, Mental Health Clinician, Archdiocesan Family Life Commission
Can we imagine for one second the thoughts and feelings of someone who does not have the support and financial means to provide the necessities of food, clothing, and shelter?
Can we imagine for one second a runaway train of feelings such as shame and guilt, anxieties and fears, the confusion and loneliness, the helplessness and unworthiness, about to run off its tracks and crash?
There have been many events in recent times where we’ve seen many children succumb to the hands of those who are experiencing severe mental health challenges/disorders. Whether it’s from a perpetrator of abuse who has their own history of abuse to a new parent suffering from post partem depression, the circumstances are many.
And of course, we have many questions: “How could he have done this?” or “Why did she leave her baby in this manner?” or “Why didn’t they ask for help?” These are all valid questions that must be explored; however, we should also ask ourselves “What we as individual and community can do to prevent this?”
From an individual standpoint, two things can be done. One, we need to educate ourselves on the services provided in our communities, so if we are experiencing difficulties and/or exhibiting mental health symptoms, the necessary steps can be taken.
This is a time where we must be honest with ourselves when our thoughts and feelings are overwhelming and even threatening. Our own issues with mental health can be difficult at times to detect and subtle enough to make you brush off what you’re encountering.
However, if your instincts are telling you something is not quite right and this is not like me, then, ask yourself a few questions. This leads me to point number Two, “Am I okay? Is there anything that I need help with? Do I need someone to speak to?” That’s all it takes to recognise what’s going on within and to make a better choice.
From a community standpoint, a similar procedure can be followed. One, educate yourself on the services provided in your community, so if someone you know is experiencing difficulties and/or exhibiting mental health symptoms the necessary steps can be taken.
Mental health symptoms can be difficult to detect in others, especially if they’re not in your household, direct environment, or it’s subtle enough that you may not recognise it.
However, if your instincts are telling you something is not quite right, then ask a few questions. Two, “Are you okay”; “Is there anything I can help you with?”; “Do you need someone to speak with?”.
There is this misconception out there that if we ask a question, we are trying to ‘mind people’s business’ or “that’s not my business, so I’m staying out”. If your intentions are coming from a place of genuine care and concern, then your questions or intuitions may save someone’s life.
In any case, that raises a suspicion or concern especially when there is possible threat to the person and/or to others and your assistance is not embraced or it’s beyond your capabilities, please contact the appropriate authorities.
What feels like a world that is spinning off its axis with a society that is desensitised to pain and overflowing with trauma, sensationalises the broken and the weak, micromanages the faithful, fuels the corrupt and the continual tightening of the economic belt, this life can be hard. More than ever, we need each other’s love, kindness and helping hand to walk us through these tumultuous days.
It takes a village! We’ve all heard this statement at some point in our lives and it holds true. We are each other’s keepers and let’s be reminded today that our purpose in this life is to love and be loved, authentically.
So, if you saw a pregnant mother in your community, living in deplorable conditions, looking overwhelmed, what would you do? If you saw a child walking down the street with no shoes or during school hours, what would you do? If you heard your neighbour’s cries last night, what would you do?
There are many resources available that you can find through the local police stations and health centres. Do the research, make a few calls, and list them on your phone or make a handy list of contact numbers visible in your household for easy access.
Please find the following National Services and organisations available:
1. Children’s Authority – 800-2014 or 996
2. Child Guidance Clinic – 1 (868) 726-1324
3. National Family Services Division – 1 (868) 624-8218 or 627-1163
4. Families in Action – 1 (868) 622-6952/622-5365/628-2333
5. ChildLine – 800-4321
6. 1 (868) 800-SAVE – Domestic Violence Abuse Hotline
7. The Rape Crisis Society of Trinidad and Tobago (RCS)North office: Port of Spain – 24 Hour Hotline (868) 627-7273 South office: San Fernando – 24 Hour Hotline (868) 657-5355
Individual, Group and Family Counselling
8. Parenting TT, Innovative Parenting Support – Parentingtt.org/662-8264 or 753-4788
The Archdiocese of Port of Spain has many parishes, commissions and ministries that are also available to assist those in need. We have everything from parenting to youth programmes, marriage and disability ministries and counselling.
If we are unable to provide you a direct service that suit your particular needs, the Archdiocese will be more than happy to help and direct you to the relevant support.
Visit www.catholictt.org for further information or you can contact the
Archdiocese of Port of Spain, Office of the Chancery – 622-2691.
If we see something, be empowered to say, and do something. If you don’t feel like yourself and you feel lost and overwhelmed, be empowered to say, and do something. We are all worth the fight!
Signs and symptoms of mental health issues:
· dramatic sleep and appetite changes
· decline in personal care
· dramatic shifts in moods
· social withdrawal and loss of interest
· decline or poor functioning in school, work, and activities
· problems with concentration and memory
· illogical thinking
· nervousness, disconnected, unusual behaviour and feeling excessively sad and low