How the Crisis in Nicaragua Affects Young People’s Mental Health

 July 4, 2018

By Yamlek Mojica

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HAVANA TIMES – For nearly three months, Nicaraguans have suffered through one of the gravest social and political crises in the country’s history. Be it behind the barricades or via cellphone screens, thousands of young people have witnessed atrocious crimes.

By this juncture, the Nicaraguan Association for Human Rights has registered more than 285 assassinations, some 1,500 wounded, and at least 156 disappearances. Nevertheless, there’s no official count of the permanent or temporary psychological damages.

In its report on the Nicaraguan situation, the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights (IACHR) specified that “the mental health and emotional well-being of the population is being seriously affected by the current context of violence, harassment, threats and repression.” The organization has classified the crisis as a “traumatic” event that – according to the testimonies that they received – has manifested itself in those living through it with intense stress, extreme suffering, anxiety, shame, and a radical change in the lives of the surviving victims and their family members.

According to psychotherapist Steven Perez, the psychological effects of the events of these past months “are of large proportion, and we will probably transmit our traumas to the next generations.” According to Perez, fear, apathy and stress are common symptoms that indicate that the situation is also affecting our minds. “It’s normal to be afraid. Fear in the face of dangerous or life-threatening situations serves as a warning mechanism to take precautions in our actions, unless this fear starts to paralyze us and we can’t implement our normal acts,” he expresses.

One of his recommendations is to write down how we feel, or to talk about it with those we trust, distract ourselves once in a while with things that don’t have anything to do with the context of our fears, and if possible to seek psychological help. You need to find the resources at hand and transform them into something life-sustaining,” he states.

On our social media platform, we asked our readers how this situation has affected them. These were some of the responses:

 

Gabriel, 20 years old

I live in Diriamba. We haven’t gone through the things here that other places have, thank God, but there’s always a tension about the attacks. I haven’t left my house for a month. I haven’t seen my family members, friends, anyone. We don’t have a lot of entertainment in my house; maybe sometimes the most anticipated World Cup matches. In our case we also have to deal with the scarcity that’s part of our lives…. In brief, everything is very tiresome, worse when they lie about what’s happening, a thousand times worse.

 

Fernanda, 25

I feel that in general we’re developing symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, and it’s been especially hard on those of us who already have a history of mental disorders.  For example, many of my friends and acquaintances are beginning to have anxiety or panic attacks, even though their mental health was previously good. The friends I chat with are beginning to show symptoms of depression. They can’t sleep, they barely eat, they can’t carry on with their daily activities, they’ve lost interest in many of the things they used to be passionate about, and they tell me that they feel empty.

Among those of us who already live with mental disorders (the ones I’ve spoken with) a feeling of uselessness and hopelessness predominates. We also talk a lot about suicide in self-deprecating jokes. I believe that it’s more difficult to generate emotions, because we’d never lived through anything like this, it’s irrational. Because of this, we burst into tears at any moment. In addition, the killings are so unpredictable and so public: we feel a constant need to be connected and see what’s happening; where they’re attacking; grieving for the people they kill and worried that our friends and family might be next.

 

Cristina, 23

The crisis in my country has affected me a lot psychologically. I’m very anxious.  I’ve gained weight, little by little, and the urge to smoke has come back. I quit smoking five months ago but I don’t know how much more time I’m going to last. My depression has returned. I lost my job and today I had a lot of suicidal thoughts, thinking that I’m doing absolutely nothing with my life and that this situation is worsening my professional development so I’m never going to grow professionally.,

All of this terrifies me. My sleep schedule is out of control: I fall asleep at 4 am and I get up after noon. I just want to sleep and sleep, because every time I check social media, everything gets worse.

 

Isadriana, 25

Since it began, I’ve been in a constant state of anxiety. The lack of rest – although I sleep, it’s not restful – the overwhelming news, the constant worry and living in a state of alert all the time has given me heart palpitations, plus a lack of motivation and the urge to just abandon everything. This occurs to the point where at moments I lose the sense of what’s happening, and see things like I was looking down from above. Some days are more difficult, and I have a hard time just getting out of bed.

Obviously, I can’t concentrate at work and I’m always in my own head. I’ve lost a certain connection with people around me. And the nights are more difficult. The tense silence doesn’t let me sleep, and many nights I just cry and cry about the lack of hope.

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