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Danger lurks if coping strategies are not found or adhered to during this time of COVID-19, warned psychologist and educator Michele Carter.

In a telephone interview, Carter said people were not managing well with the pressures the pandemic had forced on their living conditions, social life, and finances. What was more worrying Carter said was that people’s inability to identify, understand, and articulate exactly what they were feeling, resulted in impulsive behaviours.

She said, “When people are experiencing the frustrations, it may be several different things they are experiencing all at once and they must be able to identify what those problems or issues are and put words to them. Naming what you are feeling is important.”

She said this was imperative because when people could identify and articulate what they were feeling, it would help them to understand why they might be engaging in certain behaviours…unhealthy behaviours for that matter. She added it would also help them to make different decisions on how to cope with the issues healthily and to overcome them.

Confinement effects and fears of the unknown

“Due to the long confinement at home, people can and will experience several problems of varying degrees, including, frustration, irritability, restlessness, boredom, stress, anger, loss of control, laziness, a feeling of redundancy, isolation, loneliness, sadness, hopelessness, listlessness, feeling trapped and increased fear,” Carter said.

She said many people were experiencing fear of the unknown. They were concerned about the future and what it entailed and how they would be required to live in the future because of the virus.

“They are frustrated that there is no answer to when this pandemic would end. Would social distancing now referred to as physical distancing become the norm? Would people no longer be able to gather or hang out with friends or at their favourite restaurant or recreational spaces? Would wearing a facemask become the new way of life? These are some real concerns people are grappling with,” Carter said.

Searching for a

In light of all the different issues and problems people might be experiencing due to home confinement, Carter said to relieve themselves of these stressors and overcome the boredom, individuals may want to gain a sense of excitement or thrill to have some freedom as well as to gain some sense of control over the situation and their own lives, as people were feeling like they’ve lost control.

“People would want a chance to escape from the worry and the fear that they are facing. As a result of all of this, individuals may be influenced to take risks. These risks might be to leave home, to break the stay-at-home orders, to go visit their family and friends, to lime, to party, to go to the river or the beach. They will indulge in more drinking or drug abuse. They may be influenced to indulge in dangerous behaviours such as dangerous pranks,” said Carter.

Effects on the home

Carter said poor coping could also result in hostility amongst family members in the home, which could lead to spousal, intimate partner, child, or elder abuse.

“We want to be honest here to help people. Marriages which would have been experiencing problems before COVID-19, now these people are forced to be in confinement with someone they have been experiencing problems with and whom they may not want to be with. This can cause greater arguments, which can, in turn, lead to abuse,” Carter noted.

She said in families due to the pandemic, people were also experiencing a financial crisis where there were loss of jobs or a reduction in salary. This she communicated would inevitably place a strain on the marriage.

“There would be the increasing worry about buying food or paying the bills or getting access to money. These added pressures, if people are not able to cope with them healthily; they can and may vent their frustrations and anger on the people in the home,” Carter expressed.

She said the abuse could take on various forms—physical, verbal, emotional, and psychological.

In April alone, globally there have been reports of increased domestic and intimate partner violence since the lockdown measures in individual countries went into effect.

A report in the UK Guardian on April 12, stated Refuge, UK’s largest domestic abuse charity reported a 700 per cent increase in calls to its helpline in a single day, while an associated helpline for abusers seeking help to change their behaviour received 25 per cent additional calls, after the start of the COVID-19 lockdown.

In an April 6 report in the T&T Guardian, Commissioner of Police, Gary Griffith announced a spike in domestic violence cases in the last three months.

Quoting figures, the report said Griffith revealed a noticeable disparity in the number of recorded cases in 2019 compared to that in 2020 over the same period—January to March, which was 232 and 558 respectively.

Activist groups against domestic violence in the country have also been vocal on the increase of domestic violence since the stay at home measures were enforced. Among them were the Coalition against Domestic Violence and more recently, the Institute for Gender and Development Studies, UWI St Augustine, Campus, which issued a release on the topic last week Friday.

Additionally, Carter said, when it came to abuse, intimate partner violence or spousal abuse during this time should not be the only talking point as domestic violence referred to any type of violence that was happening within the home, involving the people who dwell in that shelter. That meant, children as well as the elderly.

“Children can become a source of stress to people, having to now feed them constantly because they are at home as well as consistently having to find things to keep them occupied.

“Children would be children; they would be running around and playing so the noise levels are much more, at home now and because people are already dealing with irritability and restlessness and frustrations—this too, can increase the person’s frustration level and anger and cause them to lash out at the children,” Carter said.

As it pertained to the elderly, Carter said it was a very demanding task for people who cared for them and took a combination of the caregiver’s strengths to carry out those demanding tasks. She said because of this, it could take a mental, emotional, and physical toll on the caregiver, even becoming at times, burdensome.