A number of persons have died over the last six months and another legislator has announced that post-traumatic stress caused by the 2017 hurricanes is the reason for many of the funerals.
In the months following the September-to-remember hurricanes four members of the House of Assembly suggested that the shock and stress from the hurricanes sent many to an early grave. These sentiments were expressed by Minister for Health Hon. Ronnie Skelton, Junior Minister for Tourism Hon. Archibald Christian, Third District Representative, Hon. Julian Fraser, and Ninth District Representative, Dr. the Hon. Hubert O’Neal.
However, the observation appears to continue as Leader of the Opposition, Hon. Andrew Fahie made a similar declaration while he was debating the 2018 budget on 27 April and in the process becoming the fifth Legislator to express this view.
Hon. Fahie told the House: “…Since hurricane Irma…so many of our people are dying and I know it’s from stress. When they finish fighting the insurance companies, they have to fight the contractors; when they finish fighting the contractors, they got to fight this and fight the other.”
The Leader of the Opposition alleged that there is a correlation between the loss caused by the hurricanes and stress that has ensued as persons tried to get their lives back to normal and bear costs associated. “Stress is killing our people. So, we have to get some recreational facilities, basketball court and other things to let them take off some of the stress…The consumer protection will be here by summer, a next set of dead people by the time that reaches,” Hon. Fahie stated.
During the House of Assembly on 13 December it was noted that besides the deaths that were directly caused by the hurricanes, a number of other deaths that followed were linked to the psychological and emotional stress caused by such calamitous events. Although the point was raised first by at least two other members of the House, Minister for Health and Social Development Hon. Ronnie Skelton announced that there were over 60 deaths since the storm.
“Since September 5, just under 70 persons have died and there are quite a number of others who are challenged,” Hon. Skelton confirmed following the comments of his colleagues.
The point that the deaths are a result of post-traumatic stress was made by Ninth District Representative, Dr. the Hon. Hubert O’Neal. The Ninth District Representative told the House: “By my count we have lost about twelve persons just in Virgin Gorda and Anegada alone since the storm…I believe firmly that a lot of the deaths that we have had, not just in my District, but throughout the Territory, especially for our seniors, was as a result of the stress, just the sheer impact of the stress of dealing with Irma and Maria and its aftermath.
Dr. O’Neal explained that the condition experienced by some in the Territory is similar to what soldiers who have been to war experience: “It is similar to a condition that we in the medical community call Post Traumatic Stress (PTS). Seeing that we have individuals, seniors who are in their 60s, 70s and beyond, they are already frail in their bodies and also too in their minds so this event was even more catastrophic for those individuals and that is why I believe we are seeing these extraordinary number of death that we are seeing after the storm.”
The Ninth District Representative also listed the names of some of his constituents who died following the storm.
Scientific Reporter has explored the PTS matter and in one of its recent articles it was stated that: “For some, the rebuilding of lives becomes marred by the overwhelming symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) which is known to affect victims of natural disasters. Natural disasters can cause losses of homes, neighborhoods, belongings and even the death of family and friends. When exposed to life threatening situations or those which encompass significant loss or grief, PTSD can disrupt the lives of sufferers for years until they recognize the symptoms and seek help.”
Although At Large Representative, Hon. Archibald Christian did not list the names of the persons who he knows died following the hurricanes. He did announce that he has the names of 30 persons whose funeral he attended.
Opposition member and Third District Representative, Hon. Julian Fraser also alluded to the high number of deaths since the hurricanes during that sitting. The seasoned Legislator told the House: “The aftermath of Irma is still upon us. I submit to you that more than 90% of the people who are dying right now is as a result of Irma. If Irma didn’t get you one way it’s going to get you another.”