Depressed Jamaicans <–side effects of living in a war torn state

let me preface this by saying i am not a psychologist/psychiatrist.


However, I’ve live in Jamaica my whole life and i’ve observed certain things about us that have finally come to a head recently, or the media has finally seen fit to draw attention to them.

and since we Jamaicans share a nine day memory i figured I should get my two cents in before we move on <–offended by that? let me ask you this…what happened to Dudus? no, I mean within the past month? Ok, what about the severe drought last year, any news on that recently? And what about the kids who were kidnapped last year in bulk…what happened after that? We all do it, it seems that as a country we have a media shelf life like unto unpasteurised milk. We move on to the next story pretty quickly, and follow up is practically non-existent.

I read an article in the Jamaica Observer today concerning the Hotline they’ve launched to counsel depressed students. The hotline was launched as a response to a seeming increase in the number of depressed students and more to the point, the fact that three school aged children seem to have committed suicide in under a month

However, the hotline cannot properly service the student community because it is being overwhelmed by calls from adults seeking guidance. Add this to the widespread concern about the mental health of the constabulary due to the number of recent murder/suicides among persons in uniform and it becomes clear that we don’t have depressed kids, we have a depressed population.

And why wouldn’t Jamaicans be depressed? Opportunities are far and few, even for those who are qualified in the traditional sense of the word <–it is estimated the people who are in University now will have a five year wait to find a stable job upon graduation. When i graduated in 2005 that was an expected two year wait. That means, if things don’t change, by the time your high school student graduates they’ll be well into their 40’s before they stop working odd jobs.

If you do manage to find a job the taxation alone will  make you wish you weren’t employed just so you can stop watching the money trickle through your fingers. Not to mention that changing jobs, seeking self fulfillment is a privilege reserved for very few…you find a job, you hold the job, because you don’t know when the next one is coming <–i know, i know, “we should feel blessed to be employed and have food on our tables”. But in other countries you can feel blessed and feel a sense of opportunity simultaneously. I’m not saying we shouldn’t keep our desires in prespective, but a life of keeping EVERYTHING in perspective begins to feel more like a chore than a life.

and then, the crime and violence

from my position of relative uptown-ness i have had to watch at least seven people that i know and/or am related to get murdered. Not people with drug connections, not people who secretly do bad things, just people who own businesses, or drive a civic, or had the misfortune to stop to help someone after they may or may not have hit them on the road.

It’s not natural for people to live in the constant presence of death, murder and violence unless they’re in a war-torn country.

I didn’t even realise how bad it was until I went to another Caribbean country. I figure in the first world it’s bound to be different, but right here in the Caribbean, opportunities abound. People still trust other people. People have the gall to quit one job without lining up another because they know they’ll get one. People leave parties at all odd hours of the night and never once does it cross their mind to drive only on the main road, or take the most circuitous route because they may be followed. It’s not the norm to raise your children on bag juice and cheese trix, because you can’t afford anything else. Relationships between men and women have a fighting chance at not being about money. It’s like a whole different world, right here in the same Caribbean basin.

Some time ago it dawned on me that living in Jamaica was like living in a country at war. So i started looking at some of the characteristics of people living in war-torn states, and sadly, they fit perfectly with what has become typical Jamaican behaviour.

I know it sounds extreme, to compare us to Iraq, but just think about it. This article outlines some of the stressors that people in war-torn countries often face

Some typical civilian stressors including life threat; being bombed, shot at, threatened, or displaced; being confined to one’s home; losing a loved one or family member; suffering from financial hardships; and having restricted access to commodities such as food, water, and other supplies as a result of war. Particularly horrific stressors experienced by some civilians during war include: torture, beatings, rape, forced labor, witnessing sexual abuse or violence to a family member, and mock execution.

Now think about it in the Jamaican context

Bombs:  they have firebombed cars and houses in portmore.

Shot at: There is always the threat of being shot at, as illegal guns roam the streets. Everytime I’m in a party and i see more than 3 people moving quickly in one direction i take off running too.

Threatened: threatening is a Jamaican means of communications

Displaced/Confined to ones home: gangs have given notice to many people, and sometimes entire commuities that they are to evacuate their homes under threat of death, or because of gang warfare/political unrest people are literally trapped in their communities

Restricted access to food, water etc : please see above

(i bet you didn’t realise you were dealing with these things so close to you on a daily basis)
The worse stressors:

torture, beatings, rape, forced labor, witnessing sexual abuse or violence to a family member, and mock execution. <–most of which happen with some regularity across the country. Many instances of which are not reported for fear of retribution killings.

Whether we want to accept it or not, Jamaica is a war-torn state. And what’s worse, it is a country engaged in an unspoken war against itself, an internal war, with troops outfitted by the very same persons who should be protecting them – politicians and the constabulary

Moreover, since it has not actually been declared that we are at war, there is no need to provide the services, especially the psychological counselling services that are needed to aid in recovery from this type of situation. And if there is no war, there is no war to end, this could go on forever. We would just be a ‘rough’ country. A paradise with a dark side. all the romanticised things we say to avoid the fact that serious steps need to be taken for the sake of the mental health of the citizens.

I go further to say that most Jamaicans, and it is particulartly amplified in persons from the inner-city or other volatile areas, exhibit symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder. Here are some of the milder symptoms as taken from:

Other common symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder

  • Anger and irritability
  • Guilt, shame, or self-blame
  • Substance abuse
  • Feelings of mistrust and betrayal
  • Depression and hopelessness
  • Suicidal thoughts and feelings
  • Feeling alienated and alone
  • Physical aches and pains

Now think about the image of the weed smoking, hot headed, war mongering Jamaican. Overly concerned with the friends that he/she keeps, dismissing frienships because of supposed betrayal. Blindly jealous of their lovers, and now, actually killing themselves. Turn on the radio, listen to the music, all the symptoms are there, set to a Genious beat.

And if a country is involved in a quasi-war, where the citizens don’t feel the war activities directly, they feel them at say a level 7 versus a 10, wouldn’t it be expected that these citizens may begin to exhibit the less severe symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?

And now, the suicides, which implies to me that the situation is deteriorating, that the years of mental fatigue and hopelessness are now metamorphosing into desperation and people are just giving up.

A lot of people have given up on hope, i watch it in my friends and other young/young-ish people. Their lives are lived in extremes. They drink ’til they throw up. They smoke til they can’t see straight. Partying is their religion and indiscriminate sex is just another saturday night. It could be the moral break down of the community, but suppose it’s a symptom. Suppose its because they don’t know when they will be next,  when the violence will stop moving closer and finally hit them? suppose it’s because they don’t know what good will come to them or what they’ll ever achieve so they escape no matter the means? suppose they’re not worthless, they’re hopeless.

and if we accept, then what? what do we do?

declare the state of emergency and see about the crime problem once and for all <–what about the almighty tourist dollar, we’ve all but killed the manufacturing sector and we import more than we export, if tourists stop coming we’re doomed

cut the ties between politicians and criminals so the gangs stop springing back up? <—how will a country function with only 5 political leaders

ease back on taxation <–again, where the money goin come from to fill the gap?

get back into farming to make some money <–everybody waan work inna office.

I’m not a pessimist, I’m a devil’s advocate. What are we going to do when everything seems set against us. It took us years to get here. How many to fix it. Can we or is the damage too much.There’s the hopelessness again, it’s a cycle.

but something has to happen. we are losing ourselves, have lost ourselves, we are a country at war, a person can’t live in war forever, not by choice. there has to be an end

but what?

i don’t actually know.

but in the mean time all i can say is talk, talk to each other, talk to yourself, talk to your God. Just talk. Get it out. We’re not crazy, we’re not bad people. We are normal people having normal reactions to an unnatural living situation. and that mental fatigue builds up. Let it out. It’s not the culture, but build a new one. UNtil we figure it out. UNtil the war ends. talk it out. for your mind’s sake


here are some tips for coping with depression on your own WikiHow to deal with depression

and helping a friend with depression WikiHow to help a friend deal with depression

stay up!


4 Replies to “Depressed Jamaicans <–side effects of living in a war torn state”

  1. very thoughtful and thought-provoking post.

    honestly, the part u wrote abt finding a fulfilling job hit home and while it was a little bothersome to get a reminder it was nice to see that someone else realises that its not about being ungrateful …. just unfulfilled. i know so many people who feel judged just because they hate their job. its frowned upon to be unhappy abt working in slave-like conditions.

    1. thanks you
      yes is true, when you talk about what you want people always think you’re spoilt
      but the truth is we are allowed to want things
      as long as we keep in mind the value of what we have
      what’s wrong with wanting more?
      and Jamaica doesn’t support that

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