From the onset of “Yes We Can,” I was captivated by the political capital risk of US President Barack Obama’s determination for equitable healthcare for 300 times my population. Politics aside, last week’s Supreme Court ruling upholding this signature legislation, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), proved victorious even from where I sit. Of particular interest were provisions for mental health, of which the Huffington Post’s Michael Friedman wrote: “The ACA is a great step forward in America’s efforts to meet the needs of people with mental health conditions… it should be a great boon to people with mental illnesses and their families, contributing to recovery and improved quality of life.” Personally, coverage for pre-existing conditions is the best provision: I’ve been refused insurance by some purporting to guard my life, because I didn’t accede to their prying into my 30-something-year-old mental health history. Remarkably though, is the equation of Obama’s legacy with that of Franklin D Roosevelt (social security), and Lyndon B Johnson (Medicare)—presidents who fundamentally shifted the course of American history. These words aligned themselves with the notion of “legacy,” my latest contemplation while observing local politicians. This week’s mascot of unhallowed demeanour is a disturbed-looking Anil Roberts, who became another minister to derisively voice in one way or other that St Ann’s Hospital is for mad people. He relegated fellow COP member Nalini Dial to “St Ann’s” for criticising Jack Warner’s routing of the re-routers. He is the latest, and I sense not the last, of T&T’s “esteemed” to use “mad,” “madness,” “insanity,” and “St Ann’s” as cusswords. I’m no saint. I cuss. My excursion with self-restraint is littered with violations. I live in a therapeutic space with plants and pets and constantly employ effort to identify stressors and avoid triggers—but it’s not entirely possible.
Were I to leave this sanctuary for high office, though, I’d want to play a defining role in my country’s history. I’d wish that my self-restraint were at its topmost so that my legacy would be one abounding in civility, pedagogy, humility and other delicate virtues.
I’d want to be remembered for changing the Mental Health Act from a discriminatory colonial relic to include provisions for annual funding towards public education which teaches and reinforces imperatives on mental health as follows:
• Everyone has mental-health issues—good or bad
• Mental health is more than the absence of mental illness
• Mental health is more than the presence of mental illness.
Though many of us don’t suffer from a diagnosable disorder, it’s clear some of us are mentally healthier/unhealthier than others. Constituents must remember me as having advocated for wellness facilities in every county and giving the word “madness” an uprightness that caused people to respect those so afflicted. With my nerves tuned to disquiet in our national community, which I believe redounds to mental ill health, I’d promote conciliatory governance to alleviate the jumpiness from the relentless vitriol and the vituperative campaigns of the now.
Having a vested interest in mental health, I’d want to educate leaders, teachers, preachers, journalists, all to be sensitive about the following:
• St Ann’s as synonymous with senselessness when branding opponents
• The offensive term “madhouse” as a description for St Ann’s Psychiatric Hospital; its use exposes the bigoted.
• Trivialisation of madness. It’s a valid ailment that affects real people, requiring genuine investiture for understanding and acceptance.
• Retardation as a put-down or a synonym for recklessness.
Despite my best efforts, however, I’m certain to find in my legacy an unrestrained pronouncement, uttered for political points. It happens. And, I risk being remembered for those, since reportage seems skewed towards the contentious. Prompted by the provisions of ObamaCare and my personal discomfort with the “hate-mail” approach to governance, I’m moved to pronounce on what I deem a mounting mental fissure. Currently, T&T is headlined with unrelenting angst, animosity, and antagonism from lips of razor grass, tongues of fire, and consciences suffocated by the pathology of power. The currency of expressions by a significant number—more in standing than statistics— is an overflowing stream of infractions on the psyche. Fighting words are employed in all matters, which add naught to social cohesion or peace of mind. Someone must make the connection that this arrogant overreaching in our language adds to our society’s growing vulgarity and nervousness, and subtracts from our quality of life.