Monday, 17 April 2017

Sometimes The Face of Depression Is In Your Mirror

“I can’t remember the last time I was happy. I have never been happy for 24 hours straight, ever in my life”. These are the words of ‘Paul’, a forty year old university graduate who has been battling depression for most of his adult life. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are more than 300 million people living with depression, an increase of more than 18 per cent between 2005 and 2015. The WHO states that depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide and a major contributor to the overall global burden of disease. Depression is just one of the many common mental disorders that affect a significant percentage of the Jamaican population. Data shows that 1 in every 4 Jamaicans will experience some form of mental disorder throughout hi/her lifetime. Depression can begin just about any age and can have serious implications for the depressed person as well as for his/her family. Nonetheless there is a distinction to be made between the daily emotional challenges of life and the short-lived sadness which are a direct response to such stresses. Recently, Paul and I sat down in Kingston for our discussion.  Paul is approximately 5 feet 6 inches, a rather unassuming man.  Paul vividly recalls not wanting to attend school in grade 6. While many of us can fondly remember our days in primary school which was characterized by a state of happiness and excitement at the thought of attending high school; the opposite was true for Paul, his life of depression was just beginning to take root and would haunt him ever since. Paul’s tone changed from one of eagerness to one of subdued caution as he brought to mind the many days of feeling sad during his primary school days. “I felt like I just had to deal with it, there was nuttin I could do, I couldn’t fight so I just dealt with it. I didn’t know I could tell my parents, even if I did I am sure they would not have done nuttin”. In dealing with depression at an early age of 12 years, Paul said “I just went to school and did my school work the best way I could”.
Persons who are depressed do not walk around with a placard announcing this fact. The face of depression is that face that looks back at you when you look in the mirror. Depressed people look like you and me. Many depressed persons manage to hold down a job while fighting the demon of depression. Sadly, not many depressed persons have been so diagnosed. Paul, however, was diagnosed with depression in his 20’s. The stigma and discrimination associated with mental illness often serves as barriers to treatment. These hurdles frequently prevent those who experience the symptoms from getting medical intervention necessary to adequately manage this medical condition. In many instances our association with mental health comes from seeing an insane person on the road eating from a garbage bin.  This perception of mental illness needs to be interrogated and brought into reality that a vast number of mental disorder persons do not live like this. Whether we choose to believe or not, in every family there is at least one depressed individual.
Symptoms of Depression
The American Psychiatry Association Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM -5) defines depression as a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act.  Depression is known to be caused by an aberration of neuro-chemicals (serotonin norepinephrine) in the brain. The symptoms of depression identified by DSM- 5: are depressed mood most of the day characterized by sadness,  emptiness or hopelessness; irritability or frustration, lost of interest or pleasure in most or all normal activities, such as hobbies, sleep disturbances, whether increase or decrease sleep, frequent or recurrent thoughts of death, suicidal thoughts, trouble thinking, concentrating or remembering things, fatigue or loss of energy every day, feelings of worthlessness or inappropriate guilt nearly every day, significant weight loss when not dieting or weight gain. DSM-5 indicates that if you have 5 or more of these symptoms, one of which must include either depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure in activities then you should seek medical attention. Paul is no exception to the rule and during the talk; Paul mentioned having suicidal thoughts on a number of occasions. He spoke candidly about the desire to die in a car accident. He has come to the realization that his driving has become reckless in recent times when he is alone. He stated that his appetite is not what it used to be. He has lost interest in food which is another common symptom of clinical depression. Paul said that the depression has worsened as he has gotten older. He is now forced to write down all he needs to do daily as the depression has affected his concentration and memory.  A lack of interest in most things around him is yet another sign of depression which Paul has and continues to experience. Paul is often up late into the night, he has difficulty falling and or staying asleep. This sleep disturbance is also a typical symptom of depression. This inability to sleep or insomnia is a typical symptom of depression. According to Paul, there is usually a trigger for his depression. His lifelong phobia of public speaking is one such. University was challenging for Paul especially when it came around for him to do class presentations, he remembers painfully getting a C minus for Communication Task in university. A simple unavailability of public parking space is another of his triggers. In addition, Paul who identifies himself as a gay man finds his sexual orientation a significant causative factor for his depression.  The concern about his financial standing and loneliness are also triggers of depression for Paul. He added that he would love to be in a relationship, to have someone to vent his ideas with, and to cheer him up.   
Lacking Support Services
Paul bemoans the fact that there are not enough public health facilities in Jamaica to address the needs and concerns of those who are living with depression. He recalls that the doctor who diagnosed him as being depressed referred to him to a psychiatrist. He visited the facility on three occasions and was unable to see the psychiatrist despite having an appointment. Paul added that while there are more professionals in the private sector to treat depression and mental illness, the cost associated with seeing a psychiatrist can be prohibitive for the average Jamaican. It has become quite common for Paul to be stressed daily for up to two to three weeks at a time.
The Way Forward
Paul needs help! He ended our conversation by saying he often thinks about jumping off the roof. In spite of those frightening and poignant words, there are many success stories regarding life after depression.  Some chronically depressed persons complain of feeling worse when they take the medication, this was also Paul’s experience; as a result he rarely takes his anti-depressant medication. This side effect of feeling worse can be addressed by the physician’s re-evaluation of the medication and making the appropriate changes. The way forward must include an approach which will address the psychological, medical, spiritual, social and emotional needs of the person struggling with mental disorder. Interestingly, he admits that the spiritual side of his life needs attention.  Paul finds some pleasure in gardening and watching old television series such as, “Matlock”, “Murder She Wrote”. “The different mood swings that I have, my moods change quickly and often, maybe I am bipolar, that is why I need the doctor”  “Five years I could have my own company and I hope by then I can beat my depression state or learn how to control it. I don’t see myself married with children and white picket fence kinda life. I know and accept I will be alone”.  Depression is an illness like any other medical condition and need the attention of those trained to treat it. The consensus in the field of mental health is that the best treatment is medication plus therapy.
Here are some somber, confirming words of Adam Ant: I have suffered from depression for most of my life. It is an illness.
Wayne Campbell is an educator and social commentator with an interest in development policies as they affect culture and or gender issues.
waykam@yahoo.com
@WayneCamo
#DepressionLetsTalk
#WorldHealthDay

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Easter Sunday

Jamaica over the years despite a move towards secularism still maintains a strong Judeo-Christian culture in which Jamaicans of all walks of life attend church at least twice per year, Easter and Christmas Sundays. Easter is often a time of personal reflection, as well as, spiritual rebirth and bears great significance for Christians worldwide. Today, being Easter Sunday, many Jamaican attended church of various denominations. The sermon today was preached by Pastor Roy Notice. The theme was: The Irresistible Message of the Empty Grave. According to Pastor Notice, there are four critical messages of the Empty Tomb which we must consider and remember at all times. In the first instance, the empty tomb conquers our doubts and fears as Christians and reinforces in us that death will not have the final say. Jesus Christ overcame the grave and the empty tomb and by his resurrection we too have that hope that those of us who die in Christ will also triumph over death and the grave. Secondly, the Empty Tomb conveys the Truth that evil will not win. The real power standing on resurrection power does not negotiate with evil. There is no compromise or middle ground once you are serving the true and living God. The Bible says it best; greater is He that is within us than he that is in the World. We need to spend more time in the Word of God to tend to our daily spiritual needs. The third message of the Empty Tomb is that it confirms the message that the Word of God is true. Jesus is the personification of the Resurrection. Some might be unaware of the term personification. Simply put, personification is a literary device which presents an inanimate object, idea or concept as though it were a person with human qualities and feelings. In other words, a thing or object is given a human characteristic because of some similarity between the thing and the person.  Finally, the message of the Empty Tomb serves as a platform on which we should continue the message of Jesus Christ. As Christians we are empowered and tasked with continuing to spread the word of the Gospel. According to Joshua 1:9 “Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.” On this Easter Sunday, I wish for you and your family a Holy and Blessed Easter. I encourage you to spend some quality time to show yourself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. -2 Timothy 2:15
#EasterSunday
waykam@yahoo.com
@WayneCamo

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Career Guidance and Technology

Undoubtedly, the fast pace of technological changes have made the digital age in which we live, work and raise families increasingly challenging to cope with. As societies progress we are witnessing more and more jobs becoming obsolete and void of job satisfaction, resulting in scores of workers finding themselves in the unemployment line. It is therefore very critical that as a society we place more emphasis on career counselling in our schools, especially at the secondary level in order to better prepare our students for the ever changing work force. Many of our students are unaware of the negative implications of automation can have on society. Artificial intelligence or (AI) is an area of computer science that emphasizes the creation of intelligent machines that work and reacts like humans. Some of the activities computers with artificial intelligence are designed for include: speech recognition, learning and problem solving. We cannot speak on the issue of artificial intelligence without mentioning Robotics.  Robotics is the science and technology behind the design, manufacturing and application of robots. Recently, Jamaica College, the Hope Road based single sex high school did extremely at the United States First Robotics Competition where they won a number of sectional prizes including the inspire and motivator Awards. More of our secondary schools should explore the possibility of venturing into the field of Robotics to expose their students to this new and exciting field. As educators we must redouble our efforts to engender a culture of career counseling within and throughout the education landscape to equip all our students with the necessary available career options. Our students at all levels of the education system must also embrace the changes in technology as they prepare to enter the workforce. It is never too late to engage technology and technological advancements. We must engage our youth with existing technology as we have no other choice. As a society we need to rethink our position regarding employment and work. The society needs to explore and implement more opportunities for employees to work from home wherever possible in a flexi day/week setting. This move towards flexi hours will unquestionably boost productivity levels and give employees an added sense of satisfaction and fulfillment.  Additionally, the society must work towards stimulating the minds of and encourage those students and young adults who are on the verge of selecting careers to to think outside the traditional career option box.  The competition for jobs is on a global scale. The world is a global connected village in which failure to get on board will leave you behind. It is an exciting time to be on the launching pad of one’s career selection. In the words of Stephen Hawking, “everything that civilization has to offer is a product of human intelligence; we cannot predict what we might achieve when this intelligence is magnified by the tools at AI may provide, but the eradication of war, disease and poverty would be high on anyone’s list. Success in creating AI would be the biggest event in human history. Unfortunately, it might also be the last”.
Wayne Campbell
waykam@yahoo.com
@WayneCamo 

Monday, 3 April 2017

Learning Impacting Customer Service

Most of us will agree that customer service in the society leaves much to be desired. However, not many of us have made the connection between emotional intelligence (EQ) and the quality of customer experience or lack thereof that we receive on a daily basis. Dr. Robert K Cooper defines emotional intelligence as the ability to sense, understand, and effectively apply the power and acumen of emotions as a source of human energy, information, connection and influence. Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify, use, understand and manage one’s emotions in a positive way to relieve stress, communicate effectively with others, overcome challenges and defuse conflict. Interestingly, emotional intelligence differs from how we view other intellectual abilities, in that emotional intelligence is a learned not an acquired skills set. Unfortunately, there is no course of study called emotional intelligence therefore there must be a way or ways found to empower and engender a culture which foster the growth of emotional intelligence among our people. 
Emotional intelligence is the base for a host of critical skills. Among these skills sets are; decision-making, communication, teamwork, empathy, time management, stress tolerance, accountability, trust and customer service. Uncontrolled emotions and stress can and does negatively impact one’s mental health and level of productivity. This can lead to serious health problems such as, heart attack, elevated blood pressure, blood sugar, suppress the immune system, contribute to infertility and speed up the aging process. As a society we need to ask ourselves how do we bridge the disconnect between the lack of attention we pay to emotional intelligence and the education system.  One method in which we can narrow or close the gap is by way of a philosophical shift. A paradigm change is clearly needed to embrace a move towards Constructivism. The constructivism learning theory is based on the premise that the learner produces knowledge and associates meaning based on his/her experiences. Among the key pillars necessary for the learner to produce this new knowledge are assimilation and accommodation. Assimilating causes an individual to incorporate new experiences into the old experiences. As a result the individual develops new outlooks.  On the other hand, accommodation, speaks to a reframing of old perceptions into the mental competence which already exits. Educators who follow Piaget’s Theory of Constructivism must see themselves as facilitators, whose role is to assist the student when it comes to their own understanding. Fascinatingly, there is a focus and responsibility shift from that of the teacher to that of the student as he or she learns. Educators need to move away from the simple recall questions in conducting summative and cumulative evaluations to higher level questions which will force the student to think and respond appropriately. Our students must be challenged in a holistic way to become critical thinkers. It is only by adapting such an approach we will see better customer service experiences in the long term for all of us who are desirous of this.
In the words of the Greek philosopher, Plato, all learning has an emotional base.    
Wayne Campbell
waykam@yahoo.com
@WayneCamo