The Trinidad Guardian / Being able to exercise judgment is a desired quality in order to become a good decision maker. It is a great asset in assessing people and selecting personalities for relationships. Every parent, manager and leader in every sphere will do well to have competence in the reasoning demanded for exercising good judgment.

Being judgmental, however, is the problematic because it is the attitude of being overly critical, negative, deriding, and being destructive. But when it comes to people, especially those in distress or on whom misfortune has fallen it amazes me the level of incivility people rush to in brutal judgment of others.

And, in terms of issues of mental health and mental illnesses, the pervasive ignorance by the majority makes judgment and judging take on a special cruelty as we “pass our ignorant mouths” on people we somehow think are less then us. We really behave as though those who live with or experience mental illnesses deserve nothing but “St Ann’s” or some place away from “normal” people.

We very quickly forget (or maybe we have not as yet learned) that all humans are created equal. And that regardless of the circumstances in which people find themselves, we should all have and show respect for their humanity.

Those of us who benefitted from upbringing that instilled humility are better off in appreciating the worth of another person. But, even among us are those who either thumb their noses at others deemed to be in a lesser position or just use every opportunity to be judgmental of others.

That behaviour, to me, constitutes poor mental well-being worse than someone who may have a mental health diagnosis. To my mind, gossip is a deeper sickness than most other conditions of ill health. And “cutting people down” is akin to an incurable, seeping sore – it is a special brand of evil and ugly.

Helping those in need

I recently witnessed a maxi taxi driver chase a man of his vehicle.

“Get out mih bus. Yuh smelling stink. Go and bathe. Get off! Get off! Take the next maxi.”

Before I could recover from that brutality, I saw a social media campaign that has kept me feeling deep hurt, with a disconnectedness with this part of T&T culture. There was the most hideous comments with thousands of hits and shares and everyone with a judgment of an individual who, clearly, to me was exhibiting behaviour that needed intervention and compassion.

In the midst of that, a friend asked me about an appropriate response to someone presenting with what looks like a mental health crisis. I was happy to find him among the friends that wanted to help and not harm the young physician who was the subject of major ridicule.

As a registered first-response trainer here was my advice from the tip of my finger in the social media exchange-: “When it comes to mental/ psychiatric ill health or bad well-being, the “first responder” is the first person with the opportunity to respond first to someone in crisis. That should be everyone of us. We know how to fix a cut, we should know how to respond to grief or trauma, as examples.

“And while there may not be a single response that would work for every situation there are some key things we can do to treat with those in distress.

“We begin by accepting that mental ill health is the most common illness globally at this time ergo, It can happen to me! Therefore:-

1. We can educate ourselves with the issues to become more comfortable to reach out but also to know what the signs are so we know when to reach out. WebMD and PsychologyToday are recommended sites for self education/learning.

Learn what to ask. Learn what not to say. Learn, learn, learn.

2. Education can help reduce the stigma that cripples our response. If we understand the myths and misinformation we are more likely to look past the prejudices and taboo and reach out.

3. We need to know/believe/understand that mental ill health whether an issue, a disorder, a problem or an illness/ disease does not discriminate. Anyone can present with symptoms. This may be a short-term illness or a long-term one.

But key to recovery is early attention and intervention to the illness, not hiding until we are critical or acute.

4. We each need to practice suspending judgment. That is a major deterrent to giving help and for others asking for help. When we judge before we have the information to understand circumstances or after we have the information, we are less likely to help the other person.

5. Return to some value: either civics and be neighbourly, biblical and be loving, or humanitarian. Love would not only “cover a multitude of sins” but a host of illnesses and required privacies.”

No one goes through this life without trauma. While everyone responds differently, we need to get to a place of respect and return to a love that makes us supportive of each other rather than negative and critical.

Caroline C Ravello is a strategic communications and media professional and a public health practitioner. She holds an MA with Merit in Mass Communications (University of Leicester) and is a Master of Public Health With Distinction (UWI). Write to:


View all posts