OVER the past two weeks, I’ve been to about four political rallies and several politically focused events in preparation for the upcoming Regional and General Elections on March 2. One thing that stood out for me from these experiences, is that I need to protect my mental wellness.
This past week, I had a chat with a local psychologist Balogun Osunbiyi about how this highly charged political season could impact my mental health and wellness, or even more generally, what could be the impact of this setting on mental health and wellness.
First, he helped me to understand that mental wellness, specifically, indicates that one can think, feel and subsequently act in ways that necessitate positive impact (or as I like to say: positive energy & vibrations) on both the physical and social well-being on oneself. That having been said, mental wellness is therefore quite like the phrase implies- the wellness of one’s mental state. And since one’s mental health is a component of holistic health, naturally, it adds to the overall well-being of a person.
An important distinction he made is that while people often loosely say they are “depressed,” clinical depression takes a more prolonged time to be diagnosed. Thus, when exploring how the political occurrences during this season affect someone, it is important to note that it may be affecting one’s mental wellness.
Now back to the mental wellness and election season thing. For me, this election period is one of those times in Guyana when many of our society’s intrinsic and underpinning flaws are exposed.
For me, I sometimes look at the political choices available and wonder which choice would result in a better outcome. I long to see a Guyana that is not defined by these racial divisions created aeons ago, but these divisions continue to permeate the society as we know it. Nothing else has illustrated how entrenched these divisions are like a political rally.
The psychologist explained that any highly charged situation, election season or otherwise, could affect one’s mental wellness. I think the continuing paradox of racial divisions, exacerbated during this election season, is very distressing.
I’ve been to two rallies each for the two major political parties. I decided to dwell in the crowd all four times, because I wanted to have that connection with the people on the ground. Here, it isn’t uncommon to find that the Indo-African division is still very real (in 2020!). Worse yet, sometimes it feels as if some politicians try to exacerbate these tensions to appeal to their “base.” That makes me so sad, and it makes me worry about what kind of future we continue to forge ahead with.
Now from talking to Mr Osunbiyi, he indicated that these distressing things could have an impact on any person’s mental wellness. Not only from the uncertainty of a “better tomorrow,” but he also noted that for the activists and staunch supporters during this period, there are expectations or outcomes that must be managed, lest persons cause undue harm to their mental wellness.
In these contexts, what Mr Osunbiyi advised is that due diligence should be taken to protect our mental wellness. I’m the type of person who would easily burst into tears for anything schmaltzy, but, I’m also very sensitive to anything gruesome or ‘painful to watch.’ I am an easily distressed person; that is why I have to keep myself in check much of the time because I can begin fretting about things (such as racial slurs in campaigning, for a quick example) and then start to become consumed by anger and sadness.
The next 40 days or so are going to be highly charged with Guyana’s brand of politics. And as much as we can try to avoid politics, it permeates most (if not all) components of our lives. Whether it is skipping past an article or a video, or leaving a conversation, I have to find ways of protecting my ‘energy.’ If you read this, you should think about your mental wellness too!