Chatting with Digital Strategist Keron Rose

Wellness and Mental Health

In this conversation about wellness and mental health, Online Business Strategist Keron Rose commented that the Caribbean region has a very low digital presence when searches are done for mental health. This low presence suggests that platforms related to mental health and wellness are not optimizing their websites for inclusion in data searches.

SEO Optimization

From a technical standpoint, search engine optimization (SEO) is important in the field of mental health and wellness because the results can provide insights into the questions people are asking and the problems which need solutions. Understanding those voids can lead to targeted content creation and resource development.

He commented that platforms that are trying to push out products and information about mental health and wellness should have basic things like a website and they should take the opportunity to learn from existing best practices around search engine optimization. Used efficiently, your SEO will show what people are searching for in relation to mental health and wellness as well as provide other information for example a map showing which countries in the Caribbean are searching for mental health and wellness.

Awareness about Mental Health

In responding to a question about raising awareness around mental health Keron commented that a useful starting point is to have open, public conversations and move away from only discussing mental health and wellness when there has been a negative incident in which someone’s personal experience becomes the talk of the day.

Keron shared that his awareness level of mental health and wellness skyrocketed when he had to support a close relative who experienced a manic episode and was institutionalized to begin the recovery process. His intimate involvement with that process made him very aware that people with major mental health issues can appear as normal and high functioning but that does not mean that their symptoms are not present.

Self Education

This experience led to a deep process of educating himself and beginning to understand his stressors. He had to accept that he was stressed by being in Canada, working in corporate, having a poor diet, and not exercising.

He returned to Trinidad and removed every stressor that surround him. Today he proudly states that he is stress-free and his mental health is much better. He acknowledged that running a business has ups and downs, but he is not stressed and is now on the road to continuous improvement. Keron is working on improving his nutrition, being more consistent with his exercise routine, and getting sufficient rest but that is really his daily challenge.

Focus on your mental health

His advice is to begin your journey to improving your life by focussing on your mental health, your knowledge of mental health, and your self-awareness. He highly recommends the book “How to Do the Work: Recognize Your Patterns, Heal from Your Past, and Create Your Self” by Nicole LePera. It was published in 2021 and became the #1 New York Times Bestseller.

It is a book that Keron reads because it gave him a great starting point to embark on the journey of reflecting and thinking about his life, how he was brought up and how he would like to be.

Mental health is prevalent in Trinidad and Tobago and according to the Sixth Report of the Joint Select Committee on Social Services and Public Administration: “as of April 2017, we are ranked as the third highest in the Caribbean with respect to the prevalence of mental illness.” Furthermore, it stated that the stigmas associated with mental health deterred persons from seeking and utilizing mental health services.

Thank you, Keron for your openness in discussing mental health.

State housing equals vote bartering!

La Riviera, La Fontaine, and La Renaissance are three high-rise towers in the West of Trinidad where some of the rich and famous reside.  I can assure you that payment delinquency is not even a conversation and if it is, 40% delinquency is not the rate being discussed.  It is likely to be less than 1%.

Why then is Minister Camille Robinson Regis crying about the 40% delinquency rate for state housing.  Isn’t it the same society in which the behaviours are different?  The difference in the individual responses lies in the systems, processes, and procedures implemented in both circumstances.  The residents of La Riviera, La Fontaine, and La Renaissance know that they would have to find alternative accommodation if they defaulted on payments. 

Published in the Trinidad Express on July 24, 2022.

On the other hand, beneficiaries of state accommodation believe that they have bartered their rental payment in exchange for their vote so they can do whatever they want. A close look at polling division voting results will support this statement.  They are also very aware that they will not be evicted for nonpayment of rent.

In a report in the Trinidad Express (July 20, 2022) Minister Robinson Regis showed an example of how the bartering occurs when she said: “homeowners believe as it’s the Government, they do not have to pay” and provided this example in support of her conclusion: “people in my own constituency, whose rental is between $100-$250, and yet they owing $50,000, which means from the day they got the unit, they have not paid.”   If the Minister knows this, then what has she done to correct this exploitation of the state and therefore the taxpayer by her constituents.

The concept of vote bartering continued when the Minister talked about wanting homeowners to feel the commitment to pay and announced that the Government will embark on a public education programme and use the strategies used by the former Housing Minister Randall Mitchell, where “customers felt the ease to pay up their arrears and not left to feel hounded.”  Had those soft strategies been successful, the Minister would not be revealing this current 40% delinquency today, so what is her point?

With local government elections on the near horizon, my interpretation is that this is just another way to send a message to those 40% delinquents that the status quo has their backs and will be gentle on any hounding for legitimate payments. Once again we are reinforcing a culture of delinquency.

The Minister is also making a soft call to the contractors by suggesting that if only they collected the approximately one billion dollars in arrears, they would be able to pay them the more than one billion they own.

Accounting is not as simple as this Madam Minister so please try another explanation of the government’s failure to honour its commitment to the contractors.

The real issue here is your government’s failure to put in place systems, processes, and procedures that would encourage a cultural shift and force occupants to pay their rent.  If there are no consequences, then why should they make any payments?

For the umpteenth time, citizens are hearing that there is a new application system but for the word “revolutionized” to be associated with it is to insult our intelligence because digital application systems are the norm globally.

Despite this backwardness, it is however encouraging that a digital system was launched. This iteration of the PNM government has simply dropped the ball on managing and leading this country.  Seven years into your term in office, you should be ashamed to be promising many ICT solutions.  We should be living those solutions.  Your colleagues at the Ministry of Legal Affairs are still emailing citizens telling us to visit their offices to pay the $40.00 for annual returns.

By not putting the proper systems, processes, and procedures in place, you are supporting the culture which accepts nonpayment of rent as a norm.

My question is: Are citizens voting for you because you know how to manage the country’s business or are they voting for you because you let all of us get away with slackness?”  I want to vote for people who can manage the resources of the country in the best interest of the collective.

Toting feelings for 15 years … Really?

Published Trinidad Guardian July 6, 2022.

“Keep the good memories and throw out the bad ones” is a quotation by Norhafsah Hamid, from the book “Back to Basics”. 

Our prime minister has been toting a bad memory for 15 years about the headline of a story written by reporter Darren Bahaw about his first court appearance in his Landate lawsuit.  At a recently held news conference, he waded into Newsday Report Darren Bahaw and even refused to answer his question on the current day issue of Reginald Armour’s appointment as Attorney General.  

I wonder what the Prime Minister and his communications advisors intended to achieve by recalling this 15-year-old grudge especially since the reporter is unlikely to have been the one who wrote the headline.  What are the messages they expected the media and the population to take away from this negative journey down memory lane?

Memories are a database of ideas and thoughts from which we can draw either positive or negative conclusions.  I wonder what other memories our Prime Minister is toting negatively against persons and how and when they will be revealed.  

Citizens are all engaged in a moment-by-moment struggle to survive let alone thrive.  The last thing we want to see is our leader spewing venom based on his unresolved issues.  We want to be inspired to reach out to someone who hurt us 15 years ago and say, “I forgive you, let’s move on”.  Maybe if our Prime Minister demonstrated a capacity for forgiveness some citizens might follow his lead and try to de-escalate moments of conflict. 

Maybe if he kept with the key messages which must have been prepared for the news conference, we would have heard more details about the action plan which has been developed to deal with the violence, now being described as a public health emergency.

Maybe if his tone was warmer and more welcoming, we would be reassured that we can awake every morning and look forward to a brighter day even when there are clouds above.

Our youths need to experience our Prime Minister being always his best self, using language, which is inspirational, and tackling issues that will positively impact their future.  Something has happened to our Prime Minister and his advisors because we are seeing someone who is angry and full of venom.

What we need is a leader who is prepared to focus on respectful engagement.   A leader who continues to tote feelings from as far back as 15 years will not take us where we need to go.  Throwing out bad memories might be difficult, but it is necessary for us to move forward.  The most useful part of bad memories is the teaching that they provide. 

End the stigmatization of mental health

Hans de Vignes chats with Mental Health Counselor Dennise Demming

Hans de Vignes sees himself as a change advocate using his voice to create positive change. He entered the entertainment industry as a host/hype man and today is one of our most sought-after communication voices.
Hans talks in general about his concern for mental wellness and specifically reflects on his own experiences with counseling. He comments that: “we need to stop putting a stigma behind going to a psychiatrist and a psychologist” and accept that it is equal to a medical check-in and does not mean that the person is “mad” or “crazy”.
There is a generational issue where older persons feel that the family can provide whatever support is needed but family structures have changed and mental health counseling is now necessary for persons to thrive.
As an example of a group of persons who will benefit from counseling, Hans refers to members of our protective services and the social and personal pressure they constantly face. He also references the entertainment sector where it is so easy to get caught up in the praise element and for entertainers to see themselves as greater than their reality.
He commented that in a recent group session he said: “As entertainers, we are not inferior. We are not superior. We are different. And embracing those differences is such an important part of life in general inside or outside of entertainment.”
Hans explains that his first encounter with a mental health therapist was because he wanted to get his mind right to move on to the next stage of life. The interview ends with a passionate call for people, particularly in entertainment to go to someone for professional help especially because entertainment comes with a lot of criticism and a lot of praise.”