A public health crisis

Prime Minister Dr Rowley - SUREASH CHOLAI
Prime Minister Dr Rowley - SUREASH CHOLAI

ALL AROUND us there is violence, anger and distress. Murders are rocketing. Violence against women shows no sign of abating. Children are being subject to all manner of cruelty. Desperate people are doing desperate things, including those taking it upon themselves to enact vigilante justice.

Little wonder the Prime Minister has suggested that, in moving from dealing with covid19 to our current problems, we have simply exchanged one set of public health considerations for another.

“Violence in our society is now a public health issue,” Dr Rowley said on Thursday. “It is not an erratic, passing, now-and-then thing.”

If crime is a public health issue, then we are in the throes of a public health crisis.

Too many people think it fit to settle disputes with a gun. Too many are willing to indiscriminately harm others, sometimes our most vulnerable. Actions speak louder than words, and those committing these crimes are telling us that something has gone very wrong with the way we live, behave and think.

Dr Rowley believes it has something to do with a breakdown of family members policing one another. At the same time, he says crime “seems to be a feature of human behaviour.”

Both things cannot fully explain this situation. But looking to the recent past might.

Did we feel that because the covid19 pandemic restrictions have been eased, the mental anguish suffered by so many would simply vanish overnight?

During the pandemic, global bodies such as the UN warned of a coming mental health crisis due to populations having social connections severed and being surrounded, for so long, by death and disease, poverty and anxiety, hardship and uncertainty.

Paroxysms of change on the level of the global political and economic orders have done little to quell the noise. Rather, the instability has made things seem worse.

During the peak of the pandemic, health officials in this country also warned that this problem would affect everyone, from the person in the street to the doctor in the operating theatre. Burnt-out nurses and medical practitioners were given counselling, online portals to mental health services established.

But did we expect the current wave of pure bad mind and malice that seems to have taken over the very spirit of our once easy-going and fun-loving Carnival society? Did we anticipate that a price would be paid in blood?

Now that the Prime Minister has diagnosed crime as a health matter, the State – and all leaders – must change its focus.

Yes, we need to rid the streets of guns.

But this Sunday, as the world marks the International Day of Living Together in Peace, we need to reflect deeply on whether we are doing enough to shift attitudes, find alternative ways to release the trauma, and to preserve the well-being of all citizens.


"A public health crisis"

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