In recent months there have been several reprehensible stories of violence in families – domestic violence, intimate partner violence, emotional, verbal and physical abuse and sadly some acts of violence have resulted in the murder of children. This week, Family and Faith Magazine searches for answers by examining the impact of mental health on violent behaviour.
We asked noted counselling psychologist, Andre Allen Casey about some of the signs that a person’s mental wellbeing is compromised. He explained that stressful and traumatic events can trigger mental illness in a person with a vulnerability to develop a mental disorder. He indicated that if you want to determine if your mental wellbeing is compromised you must look at how well you are managing stress and if you have emotional, physical or behavioural stress overload.
SIGNS OF STRESS
“You need to look at the cognitive signs of stress – cognitive signs may be memory problems, inability to concentrate, poor judgement, constant worry. The emotional symptoms would include agitation, short temper, inability to relax, feeling overwhelmed, sense of loneliness, low energy. Physical problems can be like impotence, low levels of libido, inability to experience organism, digestive problems, gas, diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, chest pain, back aches, awareness of heartbeat, high blood pressure, tingling and numbness in the hands or feet, menstrual disturbances and hormonal imbalance,” the experienced counselor at Family Life Ministries listed.
Allen-Casey also pointed to behavioural problems triggered by stress overload such as “separating yourself from others, sleeping too much, procrastinating responsibilities, taking drugs to relax, nervous habits like pacing, biting nails, poor performance and accident proneness.”
Family life can be impacted
Of course, all these symptoms will have a direct impact on family life. “Parenting can be impacted because you have poor judgment. Your work can be impacted which affect how efficiently and effectively you provide for your family. Your social life is going to be impacted because people don’t want to be around you because of your constant mood swings,” Allen-Casey outlined, adding that “as a result of all of these things we can develop mental health disorders; the stress overload can matriculate into a mental disorder.”
Mental disorders include conditions such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders and antisocial personality disorder, among others. Characterized by a lack of conscience, antisocial personality disorder can affect not only families but also the entire society. “So, people who have this disorder are prone to criminal behaviour. They believe victims are weak and deserve to be taken advantage of. They tend to lie and steal, they are careless with money, they take action without thinking about consequences. They are oftentimes aggressive, and they are more concerned about their needs than the needs of others,” Allen-Casey articulated.
Can the killing of a loved one be a mental health issue?
We therefore asked the counselor if the recent spate of men killing their partners and loved ones is a mental health issue. Allen-Casey stated that “the killing of partners and loved ones can be associated with a mental health issues but unless an assessment is made, we can’t definitively state that it is so.”
Notwithstanding, he noted that “a person who is schizophrenic can be prone to doing something like that. A person who has borderline personality disorder can do that and a person who is depressed. Remember that depression speaks to confused thinking, prolonged sadness or irritability. Depression speaks to extreme highs and lows, excessive fears, worries and anxieties, seeing things that are not there, hallucinating (which is also akin to schizophrenia), growing inability to cope with daily problems and activities, suicidal thoughts. So, if you see that your partners possess some of these things then we are saying you need to do something about it to protect yourself,” he warned.
Allen-Casey is advising persons to report violent behaviour to the respective authorities and crisis centres. Persons can also reach out to Family Life Ministries (Tel 876-926-8101) for counselling support.
The experienced family therapist and several others including Former NFL Pro Athlete Jay Barnett and Dr. Winston De La Haye will participate in a timely conference on mental health titled: Vital Signs Mental Health Conference on June 1 and 2 at the Emmanuel Apostolic Church. For more information on the conference visit http://www.vitalsignsjamaica.com.
In the coming weeks we will attempt to explore how faith can impact mental wellbeing.
It was going to be a long hectic demanding day, so I decided to start the day with prayer. Instead, it was more like throwing my stressors and issues at God like darts on a bullseye: “Lord, I have 6 meetings and events today and I don’t see how I am going to blah blah blah… as you know, my housekeeper is out sick and I don’t see how I am going to work and prepare meals for the girls blah blah blah, I am so tired I haven’t had a good nights sleep since blah blah blah….I am concerned about the girls and how school is going, please help them to blah blah blah…” and then I felt the gentle nudging of the Holy Spirit to pause, rest in God and then make my requests. The Spirit was urging me to rest in El Shaddai; to exhale and inhale the goodness of God’s presence. I rested and worshipped knowing that in Him I move and breathe and have my being. I rested in His majesty, His sovereignty, His love. I felt His calming presence easing my tizzy. I worshipped some more and then from a place of peace and better clarity I was able to better discern what I really needed and wanted and then make my petitions.
One of my main issues was trying to figure out how to juggle 2 very important face-to-face meetings that were to happen at around the same time. I sensed that the Lord wanted me to participate in both meetings, but the timing was bad. One meeting time was unchangeable but if I could get the 4pm one shifted to 11am that would be perfect for how my day was already structured. After I had prayed, I called the organizer to see what times they had available even though historically a change on the same day was next to impossible. The organizer, said, “no, I am sorry we don’t have any other time today” …. Then, they paused and said, “the best we could do is possibly 2pm.” “I already have a 2pm so that would not be possible for me,” I told them.
I came off the phone without a solution and simply whispered to God, “help, I need an 11am.” I left the issue in God’s hand being at peace that if the meeting had to be cancelled or rescheduled so be it. Remember that story with the three Hebrew boys when they told the king that they know that their God is going to deliver them but that even if He doesn’t, they were not going to bow? A bit of a dramatic reference I know but the peace I was enwrapped with was sort of like that – if it works out great, if it doesn’t, I am not bothered. God is on His throne and I am staying in a place of rest.
I went about the day with this peace and rest and not the tizzy I woke up with. And then at around 10am, I receive a callback from the organizers – “Hi, sorry for the short notice but we literally just had a cancellation and now have another time slot available. How is 11am for our meeting? Of course, I accepted the 11am while smiling broadly in my Spirit at how God works. What are the odds that they would get a cancellation for the exact time that I need? God is sovereign. All things work together for good. It was a brilliant meeting and my other meetings went well on that hectic day.
Friends, I have been walking with the Lord for a long time but there is something I am still learning and applying to my life – the power of resting in His presence, biding in His peace and then without anxiety make my requests. God still hears and answers. Let’s rest and then ask and see Him work.
After enduring days of high fever, lethargy, difficulty breathing, loss of taste, loss of appetite and severe weakness, Bradley James was extremely tired, and incredibly, he had lost 20 pounds in less than 10 days. The 7-mile runner had tested positive for COVID-19 after working as a DJ for a party event for some church friends in Florida. He had worn his mask and tried to keep his distance from guests but sadly he left that mid-June gathering exposed to the virus.
His wife, Kiva remembers those early moments when they were wondering if he had gotten infected.
“One of the things he said when he returned home from that party is that he was annoyed that people were approaching him. He had a mask on but I don’t know if he was consistent with it when he was trying to talk and pull it down sometimes,” Kiva shared with Family and Faith Magazine.
“He was annoyed that quite a few people kept coming up to the DJ booth which was separated and distanced from everybody. But as they were drinking and becoming less inhibited they were being more bold and coming and requesting music, commenting and high fiving and he said he was reminding them to back away but I don’t think they were very cooperative because as I said they were less inhibited – that was on the 13th of June,” Kiva recounted.
Unusual Symptoms of COVID-19
Days later he was suffering from a backache which his family thought was as a result of falling during a soccer game with his kids or his medical history with kidney stones. But they were wrong. Instead, it was the beginning of a frightening fight with the COVID-19 virus.
“He continued to have the aching on Wednesday and then symptoms of vomiting started. He just had 1 or 2 episodes and 1 bout of diarrhea and I was like this is not as a result of your falling (in a soccer game),” reasoned the wife and the mother of their 2 boys, ages 12 and 8 years, and a girl, 10 years old.
On the Thursday he started having classic respiratory symptoms and a fever and that is when they decided to get tested. “We got the test that day and I remember that evening he got a couple calls from people who were attending that party saying that there were one or two people in attendance that ended up being positive between the time he started showing symptoms and got tested. So at this point we felt pretty confident that this is what we are dealing with while we are waiting on the results. So we contacted people we were personally in contact with between the 13th and the 18th and informed them,” the responsible wife revealed.
Bradley’s results came back 2 days later as positive. At this point his symptoms were progressing – the fever was spiking to around 102.5, he was more lethargic and started to lose his appetite. With her husband testing positive, Kiva moved quickly to look about the rest of the family.
“His test came back positive on the 20th. I went and scheduled a test and I was able to get in for the following day, Sunday for a test. At that point I had no symptoms at all. And then on Friday, my 12 year said he was tired and was going to take a nap. He laid down on the floor and took a nap. He never does that in the day. No fever no nothing. He napped for a couple hours and then he was fine. My 8 year old son said he was also feeling tired, I took his temperature and he had a very low grade temp of like 99.5 for about 24 hours and that was it, he was fine running, around, didn’t want to rest much and his fever was gone the next day. My 10 year old daughter had zero symptoms, no complaints, acting normal no fever, nothing,” Kiva remembers of her children’s brush with the virus.
The kids were therefore doing well and interestingly Kiva’s test results came back negative at first. Her second test however came back positive. Fortunately, she was largely asymptomatic but Bradley’s symptoms continued to worsen.
“His respiratory symptoms and lethargy and the weakness were progressing; the appetite was down. He was taking Tylenol when his fever was spiking and he had trouble resting and his back was hurting and I was checking his respiration,” Kiva, a veterinarian by profession explained. Both Kiva and Bradley were born and raised in Jamaica and received their Bachelor’s degree before relocating to the US. The two have been married for 14 years.
After Bradley’s symptoms continued to progress, Kiva, meticulous and forward thinking, started to take more action.
Useful tools and tips for fighting COVID-19
“At this point I had gotten a pulse oximeter – a finger held oximeter – which measures oxygenation. And that is a great tool because a lot of people won’t know when their oxygen levels are falling until it is way too low. Monitoring it early is a good idea and it was like US$20 or US$30 dollars for that so I had ordered it very early. I think I ordered it the Thursday and I think it came the Friday on the 19th . So I was checking it and checking all of ours and we were normally 98% but his was hovering around 96, 97 so he was a little lower than the rest of ours so I was using ours as a reference point. So he was maintaining that until early into the following week when his symptoms (the tiredness, the weakness, a little cough) were progressing and his breathing rate was increasing,” she continued.
The nights were particularly difficult and he had trouble sleeping. Moreover, his oxygen levels started deteriorating even further.
“I started checking his oxygen more often because it started hovering at 95, 96 so it was slowly dropping. We didn’t want to get below 94, 93 which is when I would get really concerned. We were told to practice some breathing exercises which we saw some YouTube videos about; just stretching to open up the lungs, putting our arms in the air and taking deep breaths,” Kiva shared with Family and Faith Magazine.
She added that, “one of the things we knew from the beginning is not spending a lot of time on your back. That seem to be the single most important thing which is kind of the opposite of what most people would want to do when they are feeling this way because they are tired, they are exhausted, and weak. So he did want to be on his back and laying in other positions kind of makes it a little harder to breath. So I had to insist that every few hours he is getting up (which became difficult because he was feeling weak and tired) moving around, so that you’re kind of getting your lungs moving and doing the breathing exercises. The nights were the most difficult. He would feel a little better in the morning but as the day progresses he would feel tired and it seemed like breathing was tiring so as the day progressed it required a little more effort to breath.”
In addition to medication and the oximeter, the Jamaican-born wife added potent herbal teas to her husband’s healing arsenal. “I was steeping ginger, garlic, onion, mint for flavour and mixing that with lemon and getting that at least 3 times a day which was the only thing he would consume plus lots of water,” Kiva revealed. “I said you have to stay hydrated, hydration is super important for the lungs. I also tried to give him broth and he would take a little bit of it,” she explained, noting that his sense of taste had diminished by then and his fever was spiking at nights.
Going to the Hospital or Staying Home
By around day 9 or 10, things had gone to a head. “I realize that at this point this is when people end up in the hospital and the reason is that your body can only fight an invader (virus) for so long. It requires a whole lot of energy, of resources – rest, nutrition – all these things for your body to put up an optimum fight. It can do that for a certain amount of time. After you do that your body is going down and the virus starts to win. At that point, we started getting really scared because we realized he was not beating this. It was weakening him,” Kiva recollected.
But the loving determined wife had prayer support and a plan. “Tons of prayer, everyone in Jamaica, here, because it got to the point where by now I had packed a bag for the emergency room. I talked to the children and I told them they may wake up and not see me or daddy so I would leave a note and we discussed that.” Of course in a situation like that it would be tricky to have someone come over to stay with the children when the family was battling COVID.
Thoughtful and diligent, Kiva continued to put things in place for any eventuality. She continued checking his blood pressure, his lungs, pulse oxygenation and recording them. But after around 10 days, the virus wasn’t only taking a physical toll but an emotional toll on Bradley as well. He was so drained he wanted Kiva to decide on if he should go to the ER.
“And I said we need to go. The bags are packed. But the look of defeat on his face – it was really hard. And I was like he can’t go into the hospital with this attitude and feeling like this,” the woman of faith insisted. Plus Kiva herself was tired and didn’t feel confident about going to a hospital.
“I wasn’t confident about what I was hearing about the hospitals and the stories about ventilators and how they do more damage to the lungs…It forces air into the lungs… in cases of pneumonia and COVID…you are going to cause damage even if not leading to the death, it is long term. But then you are in between a rock and hard place because if we don’t go he could decompensate quickly,” the medical practitioner reasoned. Plus she was no longer comfortable caring for him at home: “I had passed the point of feeling comfortable treating him at home and as much as we didn’t want to go to the hospital I didn’t think we had a choice.”
However the couple came up with a compromise. Kiva would keep monitoring Bradley closely and then they would do a telemedicine appointment the next day. If the doctor insisted that they go to the ER, then they would go.
Armed with days of meticulous records of Bradley’s heart rate, respiratory rate, oxygen saturation, blood pressure and breathing metrics, Kiva was able to provide the doctor with useful data. The doctor was essentially trusting Kiva’s ears and eyes in order to determine the way forward – hospital or home. Via telemedicine, the doctor prescribed a nebulizer and prednisone for Kiva to treat her husband and if that worked they wouldn’t need to go to the ER. Of course, with the support of her medical colleagues, Kiva had to figure out how to set up and use a nebulizer, which she did successfully.
Bradley Starts to Recover
After the first day of nebulizing, Bradley started to feel a little better. “By day 2 on the nebulizer he started playing cards with the kids. By day 3 he was looking better. Each day was appreciable improvement,” Kiva testified.
Of course in life threatening situations like these family and friends have an abundance of advice. One of them was to put an onion under Bradley’s shirt on his chest. Although not seeing the science behind it, Kiva acquiesced and placed an onion on his chest and elsewhere in the house, while administering the nebulizer and prednisone. And over time the father of her three children steadily improved.
“It took a while for his strength to come back. He was still very weak even though his respiratory symptoms were better and now (August) he is fully recovered. He hasn’t put on back the weight but that is intentional and his hair looks a little fuzzy which I think is long term impact but his lung capacity is back. He is back to running his 7 miles,” Kiva told Family and Faith Magazine.
The good book asks the question – a wife of noble character who can find? Another version asks it this way – an excellent woman [one who is spiritual, capable, intelligent, and virtuous, who is he who can find her? Well, Bradley found Kiva.
Life Lessons from COVID
With the ordeal behind them now, Kiva now reflects on the meaning of life with appreciation and new purpose. “During that time, of course it crossed my mind that I could lose my husband. This is real. And you start to think about all the things that are not important – if he gets through this then you’d be a better wife,” she committed.
“There are just so many things that don’t matter that we think are important that aren’t because at the end of the day all you want is that person to be there,” Kiva confessed, noting that all they now want to do is spend quality time together. Since the ordeal, Kiva has also had a spiritual awakening.
“I have gone on a journey – I am doing The Purpose Driven Life (book) now. I have gone on this journey of seeking my purpose because you realize that your time on this earth is temporary. And God has trusted things to us to take care of it. Nothing is ours. Not our life; not our possessions and they are all temporary. I am trying to redefine my life and purpose,” she declared.
Ask the ordinary Jamaican what comes to mind when you say the word, Bellevue, and typically they offer references to a ‘madhouse’, or a place where you get a tin of milk in exchange for carrying in a mentally unstable relative.
But the French word actually means ‘beautiful view,’ and that is certainly the approach Bellevue Hospital’s dedicated social workers have adopted when it comes to serving those in their care. They are indeed God’s helpers who work tirelessly towards creating a ‘beautiful life’ for persons living with a mental illness by reconnecting them to their family as well as community and government services.
Now, in celebration of Social Work Month, Family and Faith Magazine in partnership with the Jamaica Broilers Group is pleased to highlight the high calling of the dedicated social workers at Bellevue Hospital.
“I didn’t choose social work, it chose me,” emphasized Mrs. Alleen Smith-Roberts, Medical Social Worker at Bellevue Hospital when asked why she chose the profession, adding that she finds great joy in helping persons with a mental illness to reconnect with their family. “You find that you have lots of persons in our society who are unable to ‘connect’, they are just existing, they are not sure where’s their place and as social workers we help persons to get there,” Mrs. Smith-Roberts explained with conviction.
In addition to ‘finding their place,’ helping clients to secure and maintain employment and access key government services, are other vital goals for social workers. After over twenty-four years in the profession, Barbara McKoy knows quite a bit about human behaviour. She told Family and Faith Magazine that “anyone can become mentally ill; it is not a respecter of persons,” pointing out, for example, that sometimes financial pressure can be traumatic for patients.
“I have a case of a gentleman who was separated from his family. He came into the hospital. He was really a terror to his family. His children didn’t want to have anything to do with him; his wife didn’t want to have anything to do with him because he was so terrible and I was able to assist him with getting his pension and it sort of brought him around because basically his traumatic conditions were brought about by the fact that he doesn’t have the money to spend. So he was really giving everybody a hard time and since he was able to get that pension I haven’t seen him being admitted for a while; he takes his medication, he calls me regularly to keep me updated on what is happening and he seems to be getting on well with his family,” she recounted, smiling.
Aside from providing this type of ongoing support, for the past 3 years during social work month, the Bellevue social workers, treat patients with special Care Packages filled with personal items, toiletries, non-perishable food and The Best Dressed Chicken from the Jamaica Broilers Group. The company’s Group Public Relations Programmes Officer, Danah Cameron, explained why they were happy to partner with the social workers at Bellevue. “To us [the work they do] emulates who Christ is in such a magnificent way, they truly give of themselves, they speak of their patients as if they are speaking of family, they have such a heart, such a warmth towards these people, it really is moving.”
Of course, both patients and social workers are also quite moved by the heartfelt gesture of kindness from their sponsors. “Our patients were more than excited and appreciative to get that extra nugget in their bag, so we thank our sponsors for their help each year and those who came on board with us to make this month an extra special month, not just for us but our patients, because its gives us great joy in giving back,” remarked Mrs. Smith-Roberts.
Senior Social Worker, Jessica Tyghter-Shaw also expressed gratitude to the Jamaica Broilers Group not only for the goodies provided, but also for their heart for community. “We appreciate your assistance, we appreciate you coming out of your offices and coming on the road and interacting with the people and showing that love and genuineness for the people.”
Other notable sponsors that supported the initiative include Jamaica Biscuit Company, Cals, Lasco and Jamaica Baking Company.
In addition to the efforts of social workers and sponsors, family and friends have an important role to play in creating a better, beautiful life for patients. In fact, their support is key to ensuring that persons with mental illness stay well.
“Oftentimes the first thing that happens when somebody has a mental illness is that families are nowhere to be found, friends are nowhere to be found and so it is really them against this whole big wide world. So, I am encouraging persons, still be a part of their lives, they need you, they need us, they need a family, they need a friend, they need persons around them,” insisted Mrs. Tyghter-Shaw.
“A lot of them are out there and they are being treated in such manner they run come back to Bellevue when Bellevue don’t have the space for them. They probably don’t need to be hospitalized but because they are running away from the treatment in their community they come to Bellevue for refuge,” Miss McKoy lamented. Echoing this sentiment, Mrs. Robert-Smith urges communities not to ostracize them. “No man is an island, the more support that individual has, the better. The propensity of them staying well is greater with more support,” she admonished.
When families fail to play their role however, social workers become the extended family for persons living with a mental illness, which of course requires an added measure of grace. It is therefore no surprise that Mrs. Tyghter-Shaw is keen to declare that she gets her strength from God – “He is the great Teacher, He is the one that taught us how to do social work, He is the best social worker,” she declared with passion.
Her faith certainly mirrors the Jamaica Broilers’ motivation for serving the community. “At our core we are a poultry company, we focus on agribusiness, we are vertically integrated. I could talk on and on about that, but what we want Jamaica to know is that the heart; at the core, we believe in Jesus Christ, we believe in His mission, and His mission becomes our mission in terms of how we serve our community. Our partnership with Bellevue Hospital in going out into the community has helped us to exemplify that,” Mrs. Cameron declared.
No doubt the partnership of families, communities and good corporate citizens, will continue to assist Bellevue in creating a more beautiful life for persons living with a mental illness.
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Persons who are overweight tend to overthink the weight loss and wellness process and get bogged down with gym membership fees, starvation diets, fat-burning tablets and other ideas, when sometimes one of the simple things that can be done immediately with little effort is ensuring that they are hydrated by drinking enough water. According to a recent study, some 50% of Jamaicans are dehydrated, which explains why so many are also overweight! However, thanks to the efforts of the WATA brand in Jamaica, efforts are being made to increase the hydration of Jamaicans and place hundreds on a path to wellness and weight management.
Over the past 4 years, WATA Ambassador and Fitness Coach Kamila McDonald and other guest instructors have been leading the WATA Wellness family of approximately 100 persons every first and third Wednesday through various workout activities free of cost. Interestingly, the workouts are innovatively done with WATA bottles. “When I first started working with them (WATA), I thought, how cool would it be if you could use WATA bottles as weights? So we started using 1.5 litre and 5 litre WATA bottles during our workouts,” she told Family and Faith Magazine, beaming.
Plus as brawta each member receives their ‘workout WATA’ to go home, which is a great way for them to stock up during the current hurricane season. Of course September has seen some of the most intense storms during the season and Kamila recommends that Jamaicans stock up on a few 5 litre bottles of WATA in order to stay hydrated during the season, especially during water lock offs or simply to ensure that they are consuming clean potable WATA. Each person in your home needs at least 5 gallons of water over a 3-day period to stay hydrated.
Reflecting on the impact of the WATA Wellness Programme over the years, Kamila declares that “it has been a blessing. Through the WATA wellness programme, I know that I am fulfilling my purpose on earth. We have 1 member who has lost over 100 pounds by committing to the monthly workouts and you have women feeling more confident about themselves,” shared the bubbly fitness expert. She added that working with the WATA brand “fits so authentically into what I do in my life, which is teach people to be the healthiest version of themselves which you can’t do without proper hydration,” she explained, emphasizing that the most important aspect of being healthy is being and staying hydrated.
For her personal regime, Kamila tries to get in 3 litres of water each day, which is two 1.5 litre WATA bottles. She espouses the adage that ‘water is life’ and points out that water in the human body lubricates joints, protects organs and helps with lethargy. And for those who don’t quite like the bland taste, she suggests adding a favourite fruit or vegetable such as oranges, cucumbers or lemons to your WATA beverage. The health guru also advised that sometimes when persons say they are hungry, sometimes they are simply dehydrated.
No doubt Kamila and the WATA Wellness Family will continue to spur Jamaicans on to a better version of themselves as they stay committed to hydration and wellness over the long haul. For more information about WATA’s Wellness Family connect with them via Facebook or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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