By Dr Neals J. Chitan
There are several symbols that folks in the region are using when referring to the COVID-19 pandemic which is running havoc across the world and holding countries at ransom. As a social skill professional who supports individuals and families through this crisis, I have heard it being referred to as a hurricane, a plague, a blight, and even as a thief that is stealing our relatives away.
However, the term I heard and I tend to agree with the most is “monster.” The truth is, although COVID-19 does have a bit of all these representations, the monster effect with all its scary, lurking around, frightening, and sleep-disturbing impact describes the COVID-19 narrative best, in my mind.
Of course, as we watch the headline news, this monster is responsible for millions of infections across the planet and hundreds of thousands of deaths, with no discrimination. Hailed as the worse crisis in centuries, the monster collapsed economies, shut down businesses, closed borders, disrupt schools, and socially incarcerated us to our homes while sending our world into a serious tailspin, leaving formidable governments seeking help from even so-called enemies. Imagine, when last have you heard of the USA curtsying in acceptance as a Russia transport plane lands in the heart of mighty America bringing vitally needed health supplies. This is the unpredictability of the COVID-19 monster.
However, despite the hell that this monster is unleashing on our physical existence as humans, it is breeding a family of other community monsters that are destined to deliver their own “pandemic” of social, emotional, and mental disorders if not arrested and treated soon.
The current issue of community lock downs, curfews, and enforcements can breed their kind of monster. From individual households where prior strained relationships existed to the inner walls of so-called socially functional homes, the reality of family isolation can bring out the worse in us, even from the best of us.
Firstly, it is the serious challenge of the disruption of the regular “comfort zone” routines. In dysfunctional families where home and the family are merely tolerated, these routines may have even been coping mechanisms developed to ensure minimal contact, attention, and time with spouses and family members who one does not enjoy interacting with. Imagine the predicament of a husband who sees his wife as nagging, intrusive, and unbearable and spends long hours after work at his favorite bar to pass the time, until he goes home drunk and just in time for bed.
Now locked down, he is stuck within the walls of the home 24 hours a day with the same woman and her perceived nagging, intrusive and unbearable ways. With the bar, his coping mechanism shut down also, he cannot self medicate and hang out with the guys until bedtime to avoid contact at home. And so, without any psychosocial assistance, he is left to his uninhibited and untrained instincts, creating a perfect recipe for the monsters of domestic violence and battery.
The same is true in the case of parents who are just tolerating their defiant, disrespectful, and rebellious teenagers. Again, with the shut down of work and schools, parents are locked down with teenage children who would prefer to be outside in the malls or parks with their friends, but who now are forced to stay inside. In these situations, it is easy for patience to wear thin, requests turn into forceful demands and full-blown disrespectful confrontations give way to the monster of the child or parent abuse.
On the other end of the behavioral spectrum is another less potent monster whose presence may not create all the drama of the previous monsters but whose impact can be totally incapacitating and potentially deadly, and that monster we label as “Grief.” You see, grief does not carry the energy of confrontation like we just experienced with the monsters before. It is personal inner suffering that we experience due to some form of loss, which if not treated, will spiral down the steep drop into hopelessness, depression, and death.
Wow. As we look around, hasn’t the COVID-19 pandemic created a tsunami of losses worldwide?
We have experienced job loss, health loss, freedom loss, socializing loss, financial loss, and relationship loss with family members and loved ones losing their lives without the hope of ever seeing them again or even bidding them goodbye. In many cases, the losses come in such combinations and quick succession that regular grief quickly graduates into compounded grief while dumping victims in total darkness and despair. Without interception, this grief monster can wreak havoc on complete families and communities locking them into its deadly grip.
The final monster I will expose is the monster of community crime and violence. Curfews and lock downs create fertile soil for crime to grow.
Although because of enforcement most citizens will adhere to the lock down period, some are defiant enough to use their criminal boldness to break the confinement laws and take advantage of the lonely streets and locked down the population. With not many eyes or cellphone cameras around, they will vandalize, burglarize, revenge, and even murder those in their way as they commit their criminal acts.
Without a direct attack on this criminal monster at a community and national level, through enforcement and behavior modification, this monster can cause widespread mayhem and swell into a social epidemic, post COVID-19.
With the serious impact of these issues in consideration, I must applaud the government of Grenada through the ministry of social development for appointing psychosocial advisors to help kill these monsters, thus giving our nation a better chance of successfully surviving COVID-19.