Mental well-being at risk during isolation - Jada Kingdom, Jahbar-I and Konshens speak out
The outbreak of the coronavirus has forced the world into uncertainty, and news about the number of cases and deaths feels relentless. In Jamaica, an island known for myriad entertainment options, the citizens are adjusting to the silence or finding ways to keep themselves entertained. People are also seeking ways to cope with a different daily routine, which, for some, meant hustling, working within the industry to keep food on the table. All things are at risk during the pandemic, including mental well-being.
“Many persons are talking about all the physical effects of coronavirus, but not the mental-health aspects,” consultant psychiatrist Dr Geoffrey Walcott told The Gleaner.
Typically, in a time of crisis, people are used to coming together, but with the coronavirus (COVID-19), that is challenging, if not impossible. Social distancing and isolation are also triggers for persons who are socially inclined.
“Social isolation, while effective in stemming the spread of COVID-19, does have significant impact on mental well-being in all persons. People who are more prone to depression and anxiety are even more affected,” said Walcott.
Entertainers who have acted as advocates for raising awareness on the topic of mental well-being shared their views.
“What everyone is going through right now is surreal and is a test on everyone’s mental health, not just those already dealing with those issues,” said Jada Kingdom, an entertainer who has admitted to having struggled with bipolar disorder and depression.
She compared the pandemic to a crazy horror movie. “We are all in it, and we don’t even know how long the movie is going to last.”
The Medicine singer-songwriter said that she has limited the time she spends watching television, in particular, the news broadcasts.
“While it is vital to keep up to date with what is going on around the world and also keep abreast of the latest advice or tips, I believe the constant stream of negative news on TV doesn’t help,” she said. “Everyone is under immense stress and pressure. People are dying, some have lost jobs not knowing how they will pay their bills or keep a roof over their heads and the worst part is the uncertainty, which brings major anxiety.”
Her way of dealing with the anxiety has been writing and recording in an at-home studio.
She said: “It is a great distraction and gives me something to put all my energy and focus on as well as a way to express my thoughts and emotions.”
Kingdom suggested that persons find something to shift their focus to, whether learning new languages or how to play an instrument, and she also referred to online parties as a great means for persons to interact in real time.
Reggae recording artiste Jahbar-I shared that he, too, spends time writing and recording, not for the purpose of creating new music for the people, but as a means of self-expression.
“Imagine a person is not necessarily creative, who does not know how to write a poem or music to express their emotions. When I feel passionately about something, I have to put it into music, whether about coronavirus or something else. Emotions convey great expression musically. When I think of people not having that medium or freedom to express themselves, I worry for them,” Jahbar-I told The Gleaner.
“I think as a country, we treat the issues of mental health like a normal day and [are] still treating it the same under our current situation.”
On the topic of mental health, dancehall entertainer Konshens said: “People need to realise that this problem is VERY real, and if we don’t take it seriously, especially in a time like this, it can be devastating.”
The entertainer urged persons not to be consumed by the news and information being circulated on countless platforms.
“I’m no expert or adviser, but I have said it previously on social media that I think we should just keep our minds active and not get sucked into our thoughts and the Internet (not just the news) by searching for a hobby – something other than sitting alone thinking all day. And people who know of loved ones dealing with these conditions [mental health issues], check on them regularly,” he said.