AFTER more than a year under COVID-19’s thumb, many of us may be just about ready to tear out our hair. I probably would – if I had any, hair that is. Thankfully, I’m one of those women currently sporting a baldhead-do.
However, it has been a stressful 12-plus months. On more days than not, it seems there is no rainbow behind the clouds, no light at the end of the tunnel.
And what do you do on those days, days when you feel done-in by COVID-19 and run over by the persistent demands of everyday life – family, work, bills, pre-existing health conditions?
- Scream bloody murder?
- Strangle the boss?
- Silence the spouse?
- Shoo the children?
- How about pulling the blanket over your head and drawing the window curtains?
- How about refusing to connect to another Zoom meeting EVER again or permanently hitting the off button on your phone?
While these certainly are options, they are NOT good options – not if we nurture even a glimmer of hope for what life can be, once we put the screws on COVID-19.
But what are our good options in a world where misinformation is a clear and present danger, and with our communication ecosystem many times an infodemic maze?
I understand that many people have reservations, but vaccines have long been a part of the public health toolkit, both here in Jamaica and globally – and we have ‘the receipts’ to show. Among other things,
- through vaccination, smallpox has been declared eradicated from the world in 1980;
- vaccinations continue to save the lives of over 2 million children each year; and
- through the success of immunization, Jamaica had the last case of Polio in 1982, the last case of locally transmitted measles in 1991, the last case of diphtheria in 1995, the last case of rubella (German measles) in 2000, and newborn tetanus in 2001.
We also owe an obligation to ourselves, our families and, yes, our communities to take the time to first get the facts on the available COVID-19 vaccine(s) while reminding ourselves of the hard year we’ve had, with many in isolation from others; some contending with mental health issues; and all of us mourning, in one way or another, the loss of life as we knew it.
Also needing to be considered in the mix is the state of your own health. Do you have a pre-existing health condition? If the answer is yes, then you should know that a pre-existing condition, such as hypertension or diabetes, puts you at higher risk of adverse health outcomes associated with becoming infected by the virus that causes COVID-19. In that scenario, you may want to give serious thought to getting the vax.
- Infection Prevention & Control.
We also have at our disposal infection prevention and control measures: washing hands, sanitising hands, wearing a mask, keeping our physical distance from other people – all things that work and work well to help us stay safe and protected from COVID-19.
Of course, as with almost every challenge that faces a group – from families to workplaces to communities to countries – the more of us who use the available tools and are consistent in doing so, the greater the benefits, not only for the individual but also for the group.
- Guarding your mental health
It has never been more important than right now to take stock of your mental health and to make the effort to protect it. The experience of COVID-19 is ripe with the drivers for stress that can take a toll on your mental wellness.
Thankfully, Jamaica’s Ministry of Health and Wellness has in place a number of options to help folks access needed support.
Not the least of these is the Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Helpline, accessible at 888-NEW-LIFE. Persons can also get information through the Ministry’s mental health page at https://www.moh.gov.jm/mental-health/.
The mental health page, among other things, also affords visitors a platform (https://www.moh.gov.jm/mental-health/mental-health-stories/) that allows them to share their stories and to receive feedback from others while feeling a part of a community.
These offerings are rolled up in the ongoing ‘Speak Up, Speak Now’ campaign that is intended to help eliminate stigma associated with mental illness while promoting an end to the silence on mental illness.
There also exists the COVID-19 Mental Health Response programme, which is embodied by a group of ‘Reach Out Rangers’ tasked to support those in need of psychosocial support at the level of communities at this time.
It is important that Jamaicans take advantage of these offerings, if and when the need arises.
Meanwhile, our look at vaccination, practice of infection prevention and control and the protection of our mental health must be buttressed, in my own view, by research; a reliance on tried and trusted sources of information; and a healthy dose of trusting your gut, sans the temptation of conspiracy theorists.
COVID-19 is not likely to disappear overnight. However, as Jamaicans, we have the earned reputation of doing what it takes for however long it takes to reach our dreams and to live those dreams.
The dream right now is to be able to step outside of our homes and breathe easy, knowing that COVID-19 as a public health challenge has been diminished. Let’s reach for that.