May 28, 2022

Psychiatrist’s message for Caribbean countries

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Dr-Griffin-BenjaminBRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Mar 16, CMC – Caribbean governments have been advised to follow Montserrat’s example in developing a strategic response to long-term psychosocial needs of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged members of the population following major disasters.

The advice has come from Dominican consultant psychiatrist, Dr Griffin Benjamin, during a lecture on Tuesday night at the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies.

Speaking on the topic: ‘Tropical Storm Erika: Psychosocial consequences and first respondents’, Dr Benjamin told the audience that the need for such services was highlighted following the passage of the storm, which struck in the early hours of August 27 last year.
“If it is true to say that one in four in the world’s population suffer with a mental illness in their lifetime, then I believe at least one in two Dominicans could have been diagnosed with a mental illness in the immediate aftermath of that storm.
“People were very different after the storm. People would give away everything they had. Nothing mattered anymore. People learned a lot of lessons from that storm. It wasn’t easy at all for anybody,” he said.
Dr Benjamin, who works with the governments of Dominica and Montserrat, told the audience that authorities may have overlooked the mental health of the population in the aftermath of Erika.
He pointed to the United Kingdom and Montserrat governments’ response following the eruptions of the Soufriere Hills Volcano in 1995 and 1997, when nearly two-thirds of the population migrated due to the damage inflicted on the island.
According to him, the British government, through its Department for International Development (DFID) effectively managed the psycho-social problems created by the disaster by providing special support to the most vulnerable and socially destitute on the island in the wake of the disaster.
“Homes have been built for the homeless, medical care and support was made available, financial and social support was provided to the poor and indigent and opportunities for work and occupation were created.
“Today, persons deemed to be vagrants or mentally challenged in Montserrat are living meaningful lives alongside their brothers and sisters,” Dr Benjamin said.
Dr Benjamin, who also runs private practices in Dominica, Antigua, St Lucia and Montserrat, also advised regional governments to include mental health care in their national disaster plans to assist survivors of natural and man-made disasters to better cope with the after effects.
Twenty-five people died and several others remain unaccounted for following the passage of the storm, which left an estimated US$226 million in infrastructural damage.
Benjamin added that the scale of the destruction caused by Tropical Storm Erika in August last year is a sign of things to come as the world experiences more of the effects of climate change, and the region must prepare itself.
Only on Tuesday, there was severe flooding at the island’s main airport, the Douglas Charles International Airport as a result of heavy rains. The latest floods came seven months after severe damage caused by Erika forced the closure of the airport. The airport was opened for business on Wednesday.

IMAGE: Dr Griffin Benjamin

For more on this story go to: http://www.themontserratreporter.com/psychiatrists-message-for-caribbean-countries/

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