photo: Pixabay

WILLEMSTAD – Now that people are being fired, the economy is in a slump, and the end of the crisis is not in sight, it is extremely important to mind our mental health. “When people stress and feel like it’s becoming too much for them, they need to find help”, says psychologist and relationship therapist, Irodice Cijntje-Copra.

A suicide attempt has also been registered on Curaçao from someone who had lost their job. Even though it is hard to prove that this was directly linked to corona, an emotional ‘tidal wave’ is to be expected.

“It could take a while before it manifests, but I fear that we’ll experience an increase in the number of mental health issues due to the restrictive measures and the economic hardships”, says psychologist Cijntje. The psychologist has heard stories about the prevailing stress from people in her vicinity and through “social media”.

It’s been two weeks now since we started taking measures against the coronavirus: “The people are still in a sort of vacation mood, that’s called the ‘honeymoon phase’: you have all the time in the world and can focus on chores which you wanted to do for a while but never got to.”

“But at a certain point that will start to change. Eventually you’ll start to realize that you have to pay more attention on how you spend your days as to combat that feeling of being useless, but you also have to plan on how you’re going to deal with the situation on a personal level. Slowly but surely more people will start to worry about the situation because amongst other things they’ve lost a lot and there’s no end in sight.”

Impact on mental health
The impact of the corona crisis on mental health cannot be underestimated. “Too often we talk about the financial and societal consequences. But the individuals who receive these messages need to be of sound body and mind.”

“The uncertainty can create a continuous source of pressure on the thoughts and feelings of people. This can lead to stress, a somber mood, or even panic attacks.”

“In these situations it is advisable to prevent loneliness, only to take in doses of information from trustworthy sources, and to partake in stress reducing activities.”

Psychiatric care
“We’re dealing with a healthcare system that’s not functioning optimally, but I know for example that governmental institutes are talking to individuals through the phone about COVID-19 and other subjects. That’s great.”

Cijntje also speaks about the influence of the Caribbean culture: “As a people we are very proud and we don’t like to sound the alarm or ask for help. We want to take care of everything ourselves.”

“So professionals on the island have to ask themselves where they can help and they have to actively offer that help. On the flip side, the population has to learn to vocalize its needs. Maybe this could be promoted by providing more information about the subject.”

Aid foundation Skuchami

Stichting P.S.I. – Skuchami is an outpatient healthcare institution. It is through this institution that the government provides mental health care related to the corona crisis. Skuchami is part of the coronavirus crisis team on behalf of the government.

Skuchami is the first point of contact for individuals seeking mental health care.

Is Skuchami prepared to deal with this crisis? Angelique La Cruz, social worker and division manager for Skuchami: “It’s something new, no one could prepare for this. We have started to provide care. If we have to provide more care and we need more care givers etc., we can always call upon other institutions for help.”

Skuchami first listens to the people who ask for help to identify what the problem is. If the need acute help, like medications for example or they need to be institutionalized, the process will be started up.

Do you need help?

Stichting Skuchami on Curaçao is reachable at +5999 690 0593 (Banda Ariba), +5999 690 3306 (MeiMei), and +5999 690 0595 (Banda Abou)

Mental Health Foundation on Sint-Maarten is reachable at +1 721 542 1677

Mental Health Caribbean is reachable on Bonaire at +599 7170125, on Statia at +599-3180099, and on Saba at +599- 4160196

Stichting Respaldo on Aruba is reachable at +297 281 5000

In the Netherlands you can call 0900-0113 for help