Moruka mystery illness seems to have gone away

Now that school’s out
With the school year now at an end, reports out of Moruka are that the mystery illness has apparently died down.

While many are thankful for this, the question now being asked is how right or wrong the psychologist, Mrs. Kathleen Siepel, was in her diagnosis that the illness was a case of mass hysteria.

Mass hysteria or mass contagion is an illness that has never been documented in Guyana before, much less on a large scale.

Mass hysteria is an ailment that generally afflicts females only.

It is described as the spread of a behaviour pattern, attitude, or emotion from person to person or group to group, through suggestion, propaganda, rumour, or imitation. It is a harmful, corrupting influence and has the tendency to spread, as of a doctrine, influence, or emotional state.

However, the cause of the illness, whether it is psychological or paranormal, has been a source of controversy since the illness was evidenced.

The mysterious ailment resurfaced in October 2008 after first striking three years ago, and returned last February. Since that time, 73 girls, between the ages of 13 and 18 years, have suffered from it while attending the Santa Rosa Secondary School.

The girls would first complain of a headache and a belly ache and then would fall into an unexplained stupor that would find them, eyes closed, thrashing about recklessly.

The girls also related strange dreams when they eventually became coherent, which only served to add to a series of peculiar occurrences and cement the belief that the illness delved into the paranormal realm.

Analyses done by health personnel were unsuccessful in ascertaining the cause of the affliction which showed no obvious genetic or other links, nor resulted in long term physical consequences.

The psychologist had proffered the view that the illness would end when the “outbursts”, as she called them, not referring to the incidents as attacks, became less rewarding.

Religious leaders assisting the North West community maintain that the illness is of the paranormal realm and they believe that their prayers have been answered.

Pastor Winston Connelly, in an invited comment, stated that he firmly believes that the prayers worked.

ȁI believe that the prayers worked,” he said with firm conviction.

He added that an important point to note was that the attacks were not a rewarding experience, as afterwards the girls are left drained and tired, both physically and emotionally.

His views are shared by many of those who have been affected while only a few accept that the illness is psychological.

In addition to these few, the Catholic Church has also voiced their support for the diagnosis of the illness being a case of mass hysteria.

In a prior interview, Roman Catholic Bishop Francis Alleyne had stated that treating the illness as a psychological issue is the responsible way to deal with the issue until it can be sufficiently evidenced that the illness is something diabolical in nature.

However, still at a loss for a conclusive analysis which would explain the strange occurrences surrounding the illness, residents have resorted to adopting different strategies that would return them to normalcy.

For the affected girls, these strategies include taking a holiday away from the community, getting involved in productive activities to keep occupied, and also changing schools in the coming school year.


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