Government notices attitude change from population post-Hurricane Irma

PHILIPSBURG– Violent armed robberies, a group of students ill-treating another student with a steel baseball bat, a shooting incident in Middle Region, fatal stabbings in St. Peters and Dutch Quarter and a man pushing his fiancée from his moving vehicle are just some of the aggressive crimes committed in St. Maarten recently.
Prime Minister Rafael Boasman said the trend in people’s recent behaviour has his Government’s attention. Speaking during the live Council of Ministers press briefing this week, he said, “I am very concerned about it. After Irma, discussions have been focused on projects and money and building roofs, but what we left out was the unseen damage.
“The human aspect and traumatic effect the hurricane had on people exist. My son is a big man now, but when he was younger, he went through Hurricane Luis. When he hears the word ‘hurricane’ now, he freaks out. It has an effect on people and we really have to pay attention to that factor. People have a shorter fuse and they can snap quickly.”
Minister of Education Silveria Jacobs also shared her thoughts about the subject and requested that people be patient during these times.
“Students are also showing different behaviour and the education centre that had to start in October was postponed due to the hurricane, but we have several education organisations assisting us with helping students.
“You have to be able to look in the mirror sometimes and say to yourself, ‘How am I coping?’ and decide whether they should get help from third parties. Even the person that appears calm can snap quickly. Even Ministers have been displaying post-traumatic stress symptoms, flipping off a little quicker than usual. Dealing with the transition of government, you have so much work to do, you don’t know if you are coming or going. It can take a toll.” Jacobs said.
“When you come to the offices and there is a long line, I ask the public to be patient. This will require tolerance and patience from us all and people should be able to say, ‘I need a few minutes.’ Sometimes you need to just recoup, take a few minutes and go back at it. Sometimes that is all that is needed. Everyone should asses themselves.”
The police said recently that these psychological symptoms can be experienced by anyone after a major natural disaster such as Hurricane Irma or any other disaster, according to health care psychologist Miranda Veltman, who has been working for the Police Force since the passing of the hurricanes.
Veltman stated, “A stressful experience of that magnitude can cause an increase of violence by adults as well as youth. In the last few weeks and days the criminal offences have become more violent by the youth as well as by adults. …
“During a disaster your mind is so focused on surviving that it tends to function on ‘automatic pilot.’ After things calm down in four to six weeks, your mind gets the chance to realise what happened. At this point some people can go into shock. Some people can experience numbness and/or denial at first.”
She said human resilience dictates that the majority of survivors will naturally recover from disasters over time. They will move on without having severe, long-lasting mental health issues.
Certain factors increase resilience after disasters. An important factor is the severity of the exposure. At highest risk are those who go through the disaster themselves. Injury and life threat are the factors that lead most often to mental health problems.
“Other risk factors to develop a PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder – Ed.] have to do with the age, gender, culture, the network and other factors specific to the survivor,” Veltman stated.
The police encourage those who feel different to immediately seek professional help when stress reactions are very severe and do not decrease over a period time or even become worse. Ask your general practitioner (house doctor) for a referral to a professional.
“A lot of people lost their jobs after these major hurricanes. According to research, crime increases with poverty. Study shows that caregivers as well as youth can commit crime. It is important to keep an eye on those who go through a difficult time. Be there for each other and help your direct environment/neighbour.
“Emotional support can reduce stress and help people to cope better with the situation. It is important that during stressful times to not neglect children. It is common that youth who committed crimes have been physically and/or emotionally abused or neglected,” according to local police.
Government is looking at developing a programme for professionals to come to St. Maarten and offer free services to those affected by the effects of Hurricane Irma who are having trouble coping.

Source: The Daily Herald