We just came out of a four-week no-movement-on-the-weekends mandate here in Grenada. After almost two years of dealing with the effects of this pandemic you would think that I would have been a veteran at this already. I’m afraid this isn’t the case. Total transparency here…if I had to spend another weekend inside, my next blog update would have been from Her Majesty’s Prison. In about 40 years when my grandchildren ask me about this period in history I will tell them I went to sleep in 2019 and woke up in … [insert the year when this madness ends here].
On any given day I am stuck somewhere between frustration at the present and anxiety for the future. Sure, I’ve tried to cope with this new reality the best way I know how: skin care routines to pamper myself after a long day at the laptop; virtual workout sessions with my trainer; cooking myself those kinds of meals that I’m missing from my favorite restaurants like Punjabi Grenada and Carib Sushi. These things help to make me feel more “normal” for a minute. The reality is that none of this is normal. Recently, I shared on my Instagram about how much I miss my goddaughter. Thankfully, her parents share pictures and videos of everything that she does so I don’t feel so left out. But nothing beats seeing her little face light up with joy as she runs to give Auntie Kiki a real-life hug.
So, yes folks. I am in a funk. I know that this isn’t the side of Kiki that many people are accustomed to seeing. I am really a joyful and bubbly person and I love that I get to sprinkle that joy into this digital space for everyone. But my platform has been built on authentic and honest content, and I wanted to stay true to that and share that, right now, I am not ok.
I wanted to find people who were talking about this, and mental health in general. Firstly, this is the kind of content that I want to consume right now. Second, I figured if I am feeling this way then countless others may be feeling it too and I could share what I found with them. So I asked a friend to make some recommendations, and the one that stood out to me was Josh Hector.
Usually, when I picture a psychologist it is someone older with an expressionless face taking notes about my addiction to those macarons from Lepenue (and silently judging me for it). Josh did not check any of those boxes. What I saw was a young professional with a big approachable smile sharing photos of his everyday life with his beautiful wife. Instantly, I knew that this was the person I wanted to follow. His business profile, Optimal Solutions, is where he shares content about mental health and drops the much-needed seeds of encouragement and inspiration.
So when #WorldMentalHealthDay came around, I just knew I wanted to share his story:
Kiki: Tell me something memorable about your upbringing and how it has shaped the man you are today?
The most memorable thing about my upbringing would be a lesson learned from both parents: there are no guarantees and the best way to achieve anything is to pursue it through hard work and commitment, even in the face of adversity.
Kiki: Now that is a timely word of advice for the reality that faces us now. My next question is, what advice would you give to your 18-year-old self?
The storms ahead are no indication that your world is falling apart. Continue to do your very best while believing with all your heart that there is a safe landing up ahead. P.S. You will be afraid of confronting some things… do it afraid.
Kiki: I find that bit of advice very useful. Now I want to get into your professional background a little bit. Why did you choose to become a psychologist?
I cannot say that I chose to become a psychologist. My interest was human resource management from the beginning. However, a twist of events resulted in my introduction to psychology at the undergraduate level. Although this was not my first choice, I found myself while studying and decided to pursue my master’s degree immediately thereafter. Additionally, I am now pursuing my doctorate in clinical psychology. I imagine that my interest in HRM clearly indicated that I was a helping professional at heart.
Kiki: That’s interesting that you found yourself in college, because that is usually where we lose ourselves. Where did you study?
I studied at the Jamaica Theological Seminary in Kingston, Jamaica. I did a Bachelor’s of Arts in General Studies with an emphasis in Guidance and Counselling. Afterwards, I did my Master’s in Counselling Psychology at the UWI Cave Hill Campus in Barbados.
Kiki: What attracted you to this medical specialty?
Delving into the theories and techniques of psychology inadvertently caused me to introspect. As a result, I was able to shed “baggage” and experience tremendous personal growth/development. Growth is now a perpetual journey for me. The outcome has been psychological and mental stability despite life’s challenges. For me, the most attractive thing about this specialty is the opportunity to facilitate growth and development in others.
Kiki: I can only imagine how fulfilling it is to know that the work you do everyday is making such a huge difference in the lives of others. There is a negative stigma attached to Mental Health in the Caribbean. How do you help your Grenadian clients overcome this hurdle in your own practice?
Interestingly, my clientele is largely reflective of the individuals who have already overcome this hurdle. However, for those who may be apprehensive, I manage to normalize the process by maintaining a conversational approach. Afterall, the theories and techniques are my load to carry while seamlessly weaving them into the conversation. I also guarantee confidentiality, which is critical in our small island context.
Kiki: It is a common perception that mental health among Caribbean men, especially, is a taboo subject. What is your perspective on this as it relates to men in Grenada?
It is apparent that men in Grenada are becoming more open to discussing mental health. To date, males account for approximately 41% of my clientele. While this can only be considered a sample of the wider population, I have also noted a greater appreciation for mental health among men in casual conversation.
Kiki: I am glad to hear that men in our society are becoming more open to talking about their mental health. The theme for mental health awareness this year will highlight that access to mental health services remains unequal. For low- and middle-income countries like ours, between 75% to 95% of people with mental disorders are unable to access mental health services at all. What initiatives have you been involved in to raise awareness about and access to Mental Health services/care in Grenada?
To date I have partnered with the public and private sector to provide general mental health education and psychoeducational sessions (e.g., Stress Management, Coping, Resilience, Anger Management). A few of these events have been aired on local television and Facebook. Each engagement involves a discussion on the importance of self-care and utilizing professional services.
Kiki: Thank you so much for your service. What advice would you give to Grenadians who want to be proactive about protecting their mental health?
Do not slight the negative impact of stress on your mental and physical well-being. Do your very best to destress every day by relaxing, practicing deep breathing, talking to trusted family/friends, and engaging in physical activity. Additionally, when stress levels become unmanageable, do not hesitate to seek professional help. While most people wait until they are in crisis to seek help, it is best if you do so early. Early detection and treatment apply to both physical and mental health. Afterall, there is no health without mental health.
Kiki: And my final question as it relates to your profession is: what would you like to see improved in the area of Mental Health in Grenada?
I would like to see mental health and physical health receive the same attention. Topics that are taboo remain that way due to secrecy. Stigmatization is also perpetuated for the same reason. It would be beneficial for us to fully “draw the curtains” open to normalize mental health care.
Getting to Know you… and everything about you….
Kiki: This has been such a great interview and I am sure the readers will learn a lot from it. But it would never be a real Kiki interview if we didn’t get into the fun stuff.
Kiki: What song/lyric currently defines your life right now?
“In The End” – Eric Benet
Kiki: What can’t you live without?
I can’t live without music. I started playing music at the age of 6, and it has consistently provided comfort and enjoyment throughout my life. Interestingly I was a full-time musician for 4 years after obtaining my master’s degree.
Kiki: What’s in our online shopping basket right now?
My online shopping basket is very …interesting. On one hand I have a couple books: “The Handbook of Psychological Assessment” (Gary Groth-Marnat), “Crisis, Trauma, & Disaster: A Clinician’s Guide” Linda L. (Lutisha) Black). On the other hand, I have scuba diving fins, a wet suit, and a snorkeling set.
Kiki: Who do you ista-stalk and why?
I don’t necessarily stalk anyone, but I look forward to posts from @tonybakerrandomly and @iamjuliemango for comic relief.
Kiki: What’s the next thing on your bucket list?
The next thing on my bucket list is scuba diving. My shopping list might have given that away.
Facebook: Josh Hector
LinkedIn: Josh Hector MSc.