Bahamas Blog International
Bahamian Culture And Mental Illness In The Bahamian Community
Related to country: Bahamas
Fixing To Make A Change:
By Kermit B. Fernander, Guardian Lifestyles Reporter -
People the world over have perhaps understood or accepted physical illness far more readily than they have ever understood or accepted mental illness. Indeed, as far back as the time of Christ, any illness or condition for which there was no obvious physical cause was simply attributed to possession by demons or evil spirits. End of story!
What is remarkable is that, in our day, the Bahamian culture is one of many that still cling to outdated myths about mental illness and, for this reason, significant stigma is attached to mental illness and to people affected by mental illness. And in The Bahamas it continues to be shrouded in myth and mystery. While local mental health care professionals believe that Bahamians have come a long way, they also believe that there is still a long way to go in our understanding and acceptance of mental illness.
"Bahamians are very well informed about depression, stress and the psychological effects of trauma. Some are very knowledgeable about mental health/mental illness and health generally, while others continue to believe the myths about mental illness, what causes mental illness and what can cure mental illness," said Dr. Nelson Clarke, Medical Chief of Staff at Sandilands Rehabilitation Centre.
"Some Bahamians still see mental illness as affecting persons with 'constitutional weaknesses', and unlikely to affect people who are emotionally strong or people who are spiritually grounded," he said.
Curiously, a person's religious beliefs can, at times, conflict with treatment. Certified psychologist and family therapist, Barrington Brennen, who also directs counseling services for Adventists in The Bahamas, said that one of his greatest challenges is treating Christian people with depression and other mood disorders. Often these people refuse to take their medication, preferring to rely on their faith and the power of prayer.
"Yes, I do believe in prayer — and prayer is very powerful, however, Jesus wants us to use common sense," said Brennen from his unique perspective as a therapist and an ordained minister.
Citing schizophrenia as an example of a major mental disorder. And he said that people with the disorder must take their medication.
Part of his task is that of re-educating his clients and, at times, he has to insist that they return to their physicians or psychiatrists and resume taking their medication. Brennen also identified the reason we have so many religious fanatics in the community. He believes they are often people with an incurable mood disorder that can be managed well with medication — provided, of course, they take it.
But there are other factors that explain why mental illness continues to be enshrouded in mystery and myth in the Bahamian community which is a very multi-cultural society.
"There is a need to understand that new persons are being added to the population daily. They come from other cultures with their own beliefs about what causes mental illness and how they ought to be treated. We may not be aware of beliefs and cultural attitudes that these new Bahamians have ... and our health care personnel may not be sensitive to these issues in such a way that they would be helpful to these persons," said Dr. Clarke.
Bahamian psychiatrist, Dr. Timothy Barrett, attributes the increase in mental illness to the very high levels of stress in our community. "Post-traumatic stress disorder is an emerging Bahamian epidemic. The number of people who present themselves for treatment for mental disorders has more than doubled what it was 12 years ago," he said on a recent radio program.
Dr. Barrett also recognizes the ongoing stigma attached to mental illness in The Bahamas, adding that many are still of the mindset where there is tremendous stigma associated with mental and emotional disorders, so nobody really wants to go to the psychiatrist.
Sadly, however, the stigma attached to mental illness can have tragic consequences as we have recently seen in the Virginia Tech University incident in which a mentally ill student massacred 30 fellow students. Although college officials were aware he had mental problems, they failed to acknowledge them and follow up on his need for treatment and counseling.
People have a tendency to associate mental illness with violence, and this has also contributed to the stigma of mental illness. Perhaps the now outdated — but folksy — image of the mentally ill shackled to their beds has helped to perpetuate this association. Dr. Barrett, however, dispelled the myth about violence, when he said that violence is hardly ever associated with psychiatric illness.
Dr. Clarke likewise dismissed the question of violence often attributed to people living with schizophrenia.
"Those persons are usually too confused and too frightened to be violent. In fact you may well know someone with a mental illness and not realize it," he said.
In spite of education and exposure it seems that their is a continued fear, as well as a fascination with mental illness.
There is yet another factor. We are obsessed with being considered "normal", which may explain our fear and fascination with persons we consider "abnormal".
In her study,"They're Possessed? Cultural Views of Mental Illness", Samantha Shepherd wrote: "Our society has an insatiable appetite for real-life horror stories about rapists, serial killers, and pedophiles, and the media is happy to provide us with them. As a result, we tend to put everyone with a psychiatric problem under one label — crazy."
She suggested that perhaps we should look to the past to gain a healthier perspective on mental illness. "The ancient Greeks believed mental illness was curable, and they used religious rituals, diet, massage, and dance, among other therapies, to manage it. A lesson from them would help us all to have a little more compassion and a little less fear."
Excellent advice for Bahamians at a time when the staff and management of Sandilands Rehabilitation Centre are celebrating their special mission to promote healing, wholeness and rehabilitation for individuals and their families impacted by mental illness.
|October 29, 2007 | 9:42 PM
Polymers International Ltd Makes Final Appeal To Bahamas Government To Sign The New Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) With The European Union
Related to country: Bahamas
Freeport's Polymers wants government to sign onto Euro trade deal:
By MINDELL SMALL, Guardian Senior Reporter -
Polymers International Ltd is making one last appeal to the government to sign on to the new Economic Partnership Agreement with Europe (EPA) — an effort to protect an estimated 15 percent of profits generated from that continent.
CEO of the Grand Bahama-based company Greg Ebelhar said the proposed EPA, now heading toward settlement, is of significant importance to the plant's future success.
"We have the potential for losing about 10 to 15 percent of our business because it would make us non-competitive with Dart Container Corporation, the company that we compete with out of the US for business that's in the UK," Ebelhar said in an interview with The Guardian yesterday.
The EPA is aimed at replacing the Cotonou Agreement, which expires on December 31. That unilateral pact grants trade preferences to former European colonies in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific (collectively referred to as ACP countries). The Bahamas is allowed duty-free access to virtually all EU markets under Cotonou.
Ebelhar said he was disappointed that Polymers was not contacted by any government official on the impact of the expiring Cotonou agreement until late last year. In January, the government then met with Polymers and two other companies (Bacardi and Paradise Fisheries) that profit from the trade relationship. Polymers also had talks with the present government but the company's COO said based on the discussions with Minister of State for Finance Zhivargo Laing, the EPA is unlikely to be signed within the next six months.
"He said that in 6 to 8 months they would have a structure that would allow them to start reviewing these agreements. But there wasn't a timeframe when they would sign them," Ebelhar said. "Minister Laing knows my sentiments and where we stand on this, and that is, time is of the essence, not only on this but on the Caribbean Basin Initiative.
"That's the big one that could very well be the death-knell for Polymers."
The Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI) currently provides 24 beneficiary countries, including The Bahamas, with duty-free access to the U.S. market for most goods. The initiative, which expires on Sep. 30, 2008, is intended to facilitate the economic development and export diversification of the Caribbean Basin economies. Last summer President George Bush suggested that agreement would be extended to help Caribbean countries until bilateral arrangements could be fully developed as a replacement satisfying WTO requirements.
Ebelhar said without CBI, the cost of operations at Polymers would most likely send the company under, "Because I would end up having to pay 6 to 6 1/2 percent, which would be a tax added on to everything we ship out of here," he noted. "And about 80 percent of our production goes to the United States right now duty-free.
"If the CBI is not replaced - because we have a low profit margin item - it would be almost too much to overcome."
But first there's the question of whether the government will ultimately protect Polymer's European market for its styrofoam cups and related products.
Former Minister of Foreign Affairs Fred Mitchell said he supported the signing of the EPA and cautioned the Ingraham government about the threat of Polymers having to shut down its operations in the absence of the European duty-free concession. Current Minister of Foreign Affairs Brent Symonette was out of the country Thursday and could not be reached for comment.
However, Minister of State for Finance Zhivargo Laing stressed that the EPA is still being negotiated and remains a tough sell for all of the countries involved. "The EPA is a comprehensive text agreement," he said Thursday. "It is an agreement being negotiated with 70 countries; none have agreed to sign to date, none."
He argues that there is great uncertainty as to whether a signing will take place by the Dec. 31 deadline.
"Even the European Union now is making enormous concessions because Asian countries, the African countries and the Caribbean countries are not at all in a position at this point to sign," said the Minister. "We are all still negotiating."
He maintains that over the past five years, The Bahamas did less work to prepare for the signing of the agreement than most of the countries involved in the process. "Now if The Bahamas has done less than most of the countries negotiating, and numerous countries are not comfortable about signing yet, why should we be any more comfortable?" he asked, rhetorically.
When asked if part of the reason the government was not now prepared to sign the agreement was because of Bacardi's recent announcement to pull out of the country in less than two years, Laing said nothing could be further from the truth.
"Bacardi would tell you, as they told me and the Prime Minster, that the EPA had nothing to do with their decision on leaving The Bahamas," he explained. "It was a business decision and it could not have had anything to do with the EPA because they're closing plants in Europe as well."
The existing Cotonou Agreement proved very beneficial for Bacardi Company Ltd which has been shipping to Europe from The Bahamas since 1965. Bacardi announced on August 23 that it was planning to transfer its business to its principal rum production site in Catano, Puerto Rico, and other facilities in the Americas. The company plans to leave The Bahamas in early 2009, and in a statement, it said only that the move was not based on any problems with the workforce in Nassau but rather "the best business decision to make for the long-term growth and competitiveness of the company."
It will, in fact, enjoy the same preferential tax treatment in Europe when shipping from Puerto Rico as it stood to have in a EPA-commited Bahamas.
Laing said he understood the concerns of Ebelhar, whose exports to Europe are much smaller than the $60 million worth of seafood shipped from this country and also hanging in the balance. Still, Laing added that in the meeting he had with the company, he pointed out that is the government's responsibility to make decisions that are in the best interest of the economy of the entire Bahamas.
Polymers International Ltd. manufactures expandable polystyrene used in foam cups. Dart Container Corporation is its only customer. Dart takes the manufactured goods from Polymers and distributes them to its other plants in US as well as to other companies in Canada, Mexico, Argentina, UK and Australia. Polymers has been operating in The Bahamas for 10 years, breaking ground in Freeport in 1995 and producing its first product in 1997.
|October 27, 2007 | 6:14 PM
Bahamas: Czech Businessman ["The Pirate of Prague"] Viktor Kozeny's United States Instigated Extradition Order Overturned By Bahamian Supreme Court
Related to country: Bahamas
Kozeny extradition order overturn:
By ARTESIA DAVIS, Guardian Senior Reporter -
A judge overturned the extradition order against Czech businessman Viktor Kozeny, on the grounds that crimes for which his extradition was sought were not illegal in The Bahamas. And the judge also concluded the United States' government's failure to disclose material beneficial to Kozeny made the request an abuse of process.
But Kozeny is not in the clear yet. Prosecutors intend to appeal the decision of Supreme Court Justice Jon Isaacs. Justice Isaacs delivered his 59-page judgment on Wednesday.
Kozeny, who is better known as "The Pirate of Prague", is wanted in New York on charges of plotting to bribe government officials in the former Soviet Republic of Azerbaijan.
He was charged in a 27-count indictment in US District Court in Manhattan in October 2005. Kozeny was held in prison from his arrest on Oct. 5, 2005 until April 2007 when he was freed on $300,000 bail.
The indictment said Kozeny and two other men, Frederick Bourke and David Pinkerton tried to buy off senior Azerbaijan officials in a bid to gain control of the state-owned oil company SOCAR. They were charged under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), which forbids American citizens and their companies from bribing foreign public officials.
Justice Isaacs noted that Kozeny did not deny his involvement in the bribery scheme. He admitted to paying Azeri officials millions of dollars in cash, giving them shares in companies under his control, and paying for their medical care.
And although this conduct may be "reprehensible", Justice Isaacs said the conduct is not an offense under the laws of The Bahamas. Since the substantive charge was dismissed on this ground, the conspiracy charges were also thrown out. The absence of a corresponding law on the Bahamian books made the offenses non-extradition ones, Justice Isaacs said.
And Justice Isaacs further found the proceedings amounted to an abuse of process because of the United States' failure to disclose a New York judge's ruling regarding Kozeny's lawyer Hans Bodmer, who is Swiss.
Bodmer was also charged under the FCPA. But Judge Scheindlin found in 2004 that the criminal penalties of the FCPA did not apply to Bodmer because he is not an American citizen. Kozeny had argued the FCPA was not applicable to him as a non-American citizen during extradition proceedings before the magistrate.
Justice Isaacs noted that the United States had a duty to reveal Judge Scheindlin's decision in the Bodmer case as it had more than "passing significance" to Kozeny's case. To qualify as an extradition offense, the crime has to be punishable by a minimum sentence of a year. Justice Isaacs noted that if the magistrate and foreign affairs minister had known about the American's judge's ruling, the extradition proceeding may never have commenced, "thereby enabling the applicant to avoid the discomfort of two years on remand."
|October 26, 2007 | 6:08 PM
The 10 Commandments Of God Are Lost And Abandoned For Kingdom Living
Related to country: Bahamas
The 10 Commandments:
By KARAN MINNIS, Guardian Lifestyles Reporter -
Honor thy mother and thy father. Thou shalt not steal; Thou shalt not kill; Thou shall not commit adultery. Do these statements sound familiar?
They were all taken from the Ten Commandments that God bestowed upon Moses within the pages of the Old Testament, and were given with the purpose of being both life lessons and guidelines for all to follow. But, today some may wonder if these guidelines have lost all value as the country is now living in a time when it seems that anything goes. Children use profane language nonchalantly in everyday sentences, without so much as a cringe from anyone. And the adults drop the "F" bomb without even caring if any little ones are in ear-shot.
And then there's the drinking and smoking, and in most instances, the youth are engaging in these activities it with people who are supposed to be parental figures. And it's happening at a time when the murder count in the country has soared to 61.
There are those in society who know the 10 Commandments by heart and who take the time to reflect upon their values, while others who struggle through five. But even for those who can't even recite the first one: "You shall have no other Gods but me," there is still hope, according to some local religious leaders who say that it's not too late to get back to the basics.
Bahamas Christian Council president Bishop John Humes says that although our nation is going through a transition period and although crime is at an all-time high, hope will always remain.
"What is really causing this high rate of crime and criminal activity in The Bahamas is the absence of, or the apparent delay in justice being administered. And I will say that the policemen are doing a very good job in arresting and solving most of the criminal and seriousness of murder in our country, but the justice system is not been properly administered," he said.
"But what is also happening is a loss for respect of God's Laws. Most of the problems in our country are here because we have disobeyed God's laws," he said.
"We have a sin problem. And sin is a transgression of the law and in transgressing God's laws we have caused the consequences to be upon our children and this nation. What we see here today is not something that happened over night, but rather we see what has been happening over generations. And it's because of that fact, that in this country we have persons who put away the laws of God and turn towards what men think. And now we're at a place where people do what's right in their own eyes, as opposed to God's. And we have to change that."
According to Humes, this is where the church comes in.
He said that we have to go back to the fundamental Christian values, and that we have to go back to the laws of God and force them into our people, from the earliest stage of the life of our young children.
"We need to go back to Sunday and Saturday schools, family devotions, discipline in the schools and in the home. Parents need to discipline their children and they need to raise these children in the right way. Bottom line, we need to go back to the basics, which are the Ten Commandments," said Humes.
Father Mel Taylor of Scared Heart Catholic Church, East Shirley Street, said the guidelines which we should follow are plainly stated, and can all be found in both Exodus 20: 2–17 and Deuteronomy 5: 6–21, and added that living by these words are all about commitment.
"I think that the 10 Commandments are great guidelines that should be followed, and I don't think that any one of them should be changed or forgotten. But to make my point, I will quote G. K Chesterton, a famous writer, in this case. Chesterton once wrote that 'Christianity has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult and left untried.'
"Personally, I think people really do not try to follow the commandments. I think that they see parts of this as difficult, and so they say, 'tomorrow, I'll try that tomorrow.' So I don't think that people really take them serious enough."
Taylor said that we should all be following the 10 Commandments, or that we could be doing a better job of doing so. "People already know the 10 Commandments, but it's more of a question to living out the commandments. I think people make the commitment, but the biggest thing to strive for is that conversion of heart. That's the goal," he said.
But Father Clement Neely of Shekinah Kingdom Ministries, Gladstone Road, says the focus should not be solely on the Ten Commandments.
"I think that there is a misunderstanding when it comes to the 10 Commandments and our modern day times and the misunderstanding is that, we have people who hold them with the view that by living to the [them] they are automatically justified before God, and that's not so.
"The 10 Commandments were only designed to point toward the new testament revelation of 'Kingdom living,' that's what they were for. They were only to be a format or outline for which the New Testament was to be built upon. And they are the foundation of our Christian life. But the New Testament believer does not have to live solely by them, because in the New Testament Jesus establishes something that is higher than the 10 Commandments, which is Kingdom living."
According to Neely, Kingdom living is simply what Jesus taught.
"When Jesus came he said that the Kingdom of God is at hand, and so the New Testament is built on that teaching, and on kingdom living, which is just a new system of living, living the God controlled life. And I'm really referring to the Beatitudes. That's what we should be living by. And these can be found in Matthew 5:3-10."
The 10 Commandments
You shall have no other Gods but me.
You shall not make for yourself any idol, nor bow down to it or worship it.
You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God.
You shall remember and keep the Sabbath day holy.
Respect your father and mother.
You must not kill.
You must not commit adultery.
You must not steal.
You must not give false evidence against your neighbour.
You must not be envious of your neighbour's goods. You shall not be envious of his house nor his wife, nor anything that belongs to your neighbour.
|October 25, 2007 | 4:14 PM
"A Strange Silence Exists On The Future Of Universal Medical Care, [In The Bahamas] Despite Statutory Provision" - Remarks Anglican Archbishop - His Grace Drexel Gomez
Related to country: Bahamas
Gomez Bemoans Silence On Health Insurance:
By Tameka Lundy -
Since coming to office the governing Free National Movement has decided to take a distinctly different path than its predecessors when it comes to facilitating insurance coverage for Bahamians with costly, chronic diseases.
While the Progressive Liberal Party administration had aggressively pursued a path towards the creation of National Health Insurance, the present government has said it’s moving towards the implementation of a fund to foot the bill for expensive medicines required as a result of catastrophic ailments.
The lack of substantive details has left some people, including Anglican Archbishop His Grace Drexel Gomez perturbed. He used a portion of his Synod address on Monday evening to draw attention once again to the dilemma that exists in The Bahamas.
Earlier in the year, the House of Assembly and the Senate passed the National Health Insurance Act, what many called the enabling legislation for the actual scheme. However the regulations to give teeth to the legislation were never put into effect before the May 2 general election that ushered in a new government.
"Despite this statutory provision, a strange silence exists on the future of universal medical care," he said.
"It is time for the government to break the silence on the issue and present the nation with its proposals for providing hope to thousands of Bahamians who lack adequate insurance coverage."
Many people have conceded that the quality of life for thousands of Bahamians is significantly reduced by the lack of adequate health insurance coverage since these persons are denied access to the medical facilities available because their financial situation does not provide sufficient funds to cover the necessary examinations and treatment.
"Most of the persons in this category are not interested in the politics associated with the concept; they are primarily concerned with the assurance that they will have access to appropriate medical care," the archbishop said.
"In the national interest, let us provide a measure of hope for those persons whose quality of life is being negatively impacted by the lack of access to appropriate health care."
The FNM had vowed, before it came to office, to establish a national health fund to assist with the purchase of prescription medicines for specified chronic illnesses; facilitate affordable health insurance for all and strengthen programmes for the prevention of communicable diseases.
Quite recently the Minister of Health Dr. Hubert Minnis told the Bahama Journal that the government is still committed to the establishing an NHI plan with one stark difference – the creation of a National Health Fund.
He said at the time he did not want a stopgap measure.
Asked about the progress of the health fund, he said, "It’s all in discussions at this point in time. As I said, I’m presently trying to accumulate the information.
"This is a government that believes in doing everything right and getting all the information so we minimize any possibility of mistake and therefore we will ensure that that’s done correctly. We want to get all the information so that when it’s done you or nobody else can say ‘I told you so’."
Dr. Minnis has declared that The Bahamas is experiencing "an epidemic of death" with 57 percent of deaths in the country resulting from chronic non-communicable diseases.
24 October 2007
|October 24, 2007 | 5:33 PM
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