A volcanic ashfall, a global pandemic and the uncertainty of an upcoming hurricane season have all caused some people to panic and feel they are losing control of their lives, a psychologist in private practice said Tuesday, as he urged Barbadians to take the developments in stride.
Shawn Clarke, Chief Executive Officer of Supreme Counselling for Personal Development said that from what he has been observing through people reaching out for counselling services, some are finding it difficult to cope with all that has been going on in the country and feel as though they cannot catch a break.
Following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, Barbadians were looking forward to a brighter 2021. But the island was thrown into another national shutdown and curfew at the beginning of the year amid a second wave of the virus.
And although Prime Minister Mia Mottley has announced plans for the island to fully return to normal operations, allow additional businesses to reopen and eventually increase tourist arrivals, the heavy coating of the island in ash from the La Soufriere volcano’s eruption has ground many activities to a halt.
According to the psychologist, people are feeling stressed out that they cannot properly plan their lives at this time amidst continuing uncertainties
Clarke told Barbados TODAY: “People are frustrated. People are fed up. Some people are scared. I also heard a couple people that I spoke to now panicking about the uncertainty of the hurricane season and how that would look for 2021.
“You know, if all of these things are happening, people are already expecting the worst from the hurricane season and the mere fact that we are told that the season is likely to start earlier than usual. All of these things have people feeling like they are not in control.
“And one of the worse things that you could do with an adult is to take away the perception from that person that he or she is in control.”
Another development of concern to the counsellor has been a rise in the number of children seeking help. In the past, parents would call his office seeking access to counselling services for their children, Clarke said, but now the tables have turned and children are now calling for assistance themselves.
He noted a shift from the taboo of accessing the service of a psychologist because of its mental health association.
“Now you have Bajans gravitating to these professionals needing the help and that says something,” Clarke said. “From the experience of the COVID-19 which by no stretch of the imagination we are over or we have seen the end of, now to have to deal with the uncertainty of a volcano that is still erupting. I just cleaned my vehicle, you blink twice and you look back at it again and it looks as though you didn’t clean it.
“And where am I going to get all of the household appliances to do all of this cleaning. And then the Barbados Water Authority (BWA) says to me to use the water sparingly so how are they expecting me to clean. The Prime Minister said I should consider bathing once a day but how am I supposed to do that with all of this dust and feeling so sticky and untidy throughout the day. This is a real situation that we have to deal with.”
The psychologist advised that those struggling to cope with the ongoing situations must first accept the fact that they cannot blame themselves for what is happening.
He said people must come to the realization that while there are aspects of their lives that they can handle, the ability to manage a natural disaster or a pandemic is not on the list.
The psychologist said: “The ash that is on my patio did not get there in one hour. It did not get there in one day. So why should I try to clean it up in one hour? Why should I stress myself about trying to clean it up in one day? It has to be a process and we need to work that process and we need to pace ourselves. We need to say I am going to deal with upstairs today and deal with downstairs tomorrow. Deal with the front of the house today and the back tomorrow and find time to relax and rejuvenate.
“Find time to do things that you enjoy doing. You are not being absent-minded, you are not being lazy. And do not allow anyone to try to put you in a position to believe that you are being absent-minded or you are being dirty or that your house stinks. Do not allow those people to penetrate your train of thought. Deal with what can be dealt with in the moment, anything else can be done after”.