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In Mental: I had part in exposing how Mental Health deteriorates on the island with recent blackouts

Beyond blaming sargassum for the current electricity situation in Puerto Rico, it is the physical and mental health of citizens that, once again, is disrupted by factors beyond their control.

They are the most vulnerable, such as people who depend on machines for living, the elderly and children, as well as small businesses, who are most affected by the current inconsistency of the electrical power system.

Situation, which can not only be responsible for episodes of anxiety in people, in addition, other conditions related to mental health, such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder after the various events that citizens have experienced since the passage of Hurricane María in in 2017 and the earthquakes that hit the south of the island in January 2020.

“There are adults and children who have symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress and who associate the power failure, as happened before the earthquakes, with that traumatic event. We have been in a period of time in which the mental health of Puerto Ricans has been affected by various events of the climate crisis and public policy decisions, ’’ said community clinical psychologist and professor, Eduardo Lugo.

According to Lugo, feelings of hopelessness and that "all is lost" can also negatively affect mental health.

“You have people whose hopelessness factor can affect their mental and physical health, which can result in many things. What we have been saying for 12 years is that this model that we are experiencing, of austerity, corruption and the climate crisis, is going to create a mental health epidemic in the country. We are very concerned, ’’ said Lugo.

He pointed out that the fact that government leaders say and make believe that everything is fine, when it is the opposite, does not add to an atmosphere of hope.

For her part, the social worker Ana Valeria Capeles Rivera emphasized that the economic crisis adds another stressor to the current event, since it entails expenses outside the budget of many citizens.

“Buying food because you lost it because of the lack of electricity or buying more gasoline for the plant is going to cause you another stress because most Puerto Ricans live one dollar at a time. There are many stressors that affect mental health, '' she said.

Capeles Rivera added that the problem “that there is no light, that we are in a pandemic, that the economy is bad and that the needs of the Government are in the third page while citizens pay, incite that mental health is not well ''

Small traders are affected

Others visibly affected by this scenario are small business owners, who have not hesitated to use social networks to share the frustration and vicissitudes they have experienced for a few weeks.

This is the case of the owners of the Cagüeña 404 Coffee & Beers micro-enterprise, Ramdwin González and Pedro Anibarro, who for four weeks have been facing problems with the electrical power system of their premises and as a result have had to be forced to close.

“This week it has been exacerbated. We are having incidents between 2 to 4 times a week, whether they are fluctuations or loss of light for short or long periods of time. Yesterday, for example, we opened operations at 7:00 in the morning and at 7:05 the power went out, it returned and in the other premises, which had power, the power went out until 3:30 p.m. At 3:40, he left at this place. This is the perfect example of how operations are made impossible for businesses, '' González shared.

Anibarro pointed to the cost of an electric generator for the correct maintenance of the professional machinery of a business focused on barista.

“Once we looked for a quote and they were about $ 27 thousand in price. We are in a commercial context where we have coffee machines that take two floors from home, the resistance is different. We are a small business and in the beginning, it is very complicated '', he explained.

The issue of mental health is also important for entrepreneurs, especially because of the uncertainty that they, their employees and diners experience, who often look for a place with electricity and the internet to resolve the situation.

“Is it really worth starting a business in Puerto Rico? You feel lonely and it's all against the grain. When you have been living things like this for a year, we come from a pandemic, it is difficult and it has repercussions on us as leaders and on the boys, who are wasting hours and suffering the consequences, '' said Anibarro.

On his part, González added that "it is important to recognize how the issue of mental health affects us as a business and as members of a team."

Sonia Vázquez Cintrón, who is a lawyer and businessman, also shared with Es Mental her hopelessness due to the blackouts.

“The waste of time to be able to generate income is horrible. The uncertainty of whether or not we will have electricity service and internet access does not allow us to organize work. Voltage fluctuations have damaged compressors, modem and ovens, in short the operation has become more difficult and the cost of repair

By: Perla Alessandra Hernández


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