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Mental illnesses require professional care

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

I read the Facebook post on Natasha Navas on the prompting of my girlfriend out in Barbados who sounded so distressed.

Spiritual head of the Swaha Gyaan Jyoti Mandali, Jaidath Maharaj did his civic duty asking for assistance for Navas on social media. A few people objected to the forum, but overall the comments represented an outpouring of concern and overwhelming ‘bush’ diagnoses.

Few offered any solutions and that was most concerning. Again, the questions: Where do we go when we have a friend, a co-worker, a partner, a child, a parent, a sibling in crisis? How do communities—family, village, church and religious organisations—respond to such an emergency?

Navas according to the Pundit, “walked into the Gyaan Jyoti Mandali in Madras with all her belonging (sic).” She had been at the temple for three days and his plea was to have some intervention from relatives or friends “to make arrangements to collect her as the Temple is not equipped to handle living as well as person (sic) in that state of mind.”

He said, “She is of course not in her right senses,” she having indicated on arrival three days before that she was “waiting for someone to pick her up.”

My heart goes out to Pundit Maharaj and his members and to Navas’s relatives. As with so many situations before hers, there are very few options for treating with acute situations.

Worse yet, is that having been directed to the post, very quickly my tears were replaced by the vexing reality that many people here disregard the illnesses of the mind and the particular care required for healing and stabilising people. In their loud, uninformed opinions mental illnesses are “demonic forces” and “only the blood of Jesus 100 per cent” could heal the situation.

There was “a visionary, seeing this woman’s brain as being fried...the left brain is not sending messages to the right brain and vice versa. There is a complete disconnect and she needs to be hospitalised for the rest of her life.”

Then there was the other “visionary” who “don’t think any spiritual help can bring this woman back.” She opined “I have a feeling someone wanted her to ‘pull a string’ for her to get them a millionaire dollar project while being Mayor, and when she refused, they either spiked her drink, or injected her with a brain-damaging drug.”

Then there was this, “Many may disagree few will understand but this is a spiritual war that is being fought. A war of good vs bad. I am sorry what has happened to Natasha. Her family maybe distraught but at least they should keep her locked up home...sought (sic) help but keep it private.

Then the kicker, “There is a woman in Rosillac (sic) that does excellent work… maybe the family can look for that woman she maybe (sic) able to help.”

I do not know anyone who does not go the doctor when they are acutely ill. When it comes to mental illnesses though, it is always an issue of a spirit lash, karma, bad mind and bad blood that “only the blood of Jesus Christ”, and “the lady behind the bridge in Tacarigua” and the “Kali Temple” can fix.

So many people are ignorant and dangerously outspoken without understanding that we should not treat the illnesses of the mind any different from physical illnesses and many times in addition to the value of prayer, it is the doctor who brings a healing intervention. That’s why God conceived doctors.

I long for this place to produce more than such bigoted, judgmental, pious, uninformed offerings.

Hopefully, by this time, Navas would have had an appropriate intervention that involved a doctor and professional treatment or a referral to determine a diagnosis and appropriate action.

• Caroline C Ravello is a strategic communication and media professional and a public health practitioner. She holds an MA with Merit in Mass Communications (University of Leicester) and is a Master of Public Health With Distinction (The UWI). Write to: [email protected]


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