West Indians ignore addiction, a very pertinent aspect of mental health, by pretending our cultural identity as West Indians makes us immune to the addictive effects of alcohol.
Our culture glorifies alcohol on a level that surpasses that of even the United States. We have bars popping up called “Rehab” and “Rum Therapy”; although funny on one level, these trends point to the disturbing fact that using a harmful substance as a coping mechanism is celebrated. There are many memes online about how Lucians/West Indians drive better drunk that promote false information about alcohol abuse under the guise of humor.
We also find glorification of alcohol abuse & the culture surrounding binge drinking in popular music (Kabawé for example) and in the culture surrounding carnival etc etc.
This isn’t to harp on all alcohol consumption by the way. There’s nothing I like more than a nice glass of red wine… But there are some issues here worth taking note of.
In pretending our relationship with alcohol is all fun and games we ignore the fact that alcohol+violence often go hand in hand. We ignore the fact that binge drinking and driving is considered acceptable despite the harm it poses to ourselves and others.
We act as if alcohol poisoning is a myth or as if binge drinkers are incapable of suffering due to their choices. We see everything about alcohol as representing a good time.
Alcohol addiction has real consequences on life expectancy and health, but we act like it doesn’t. In refusing to differentiate between addiction + consumption for leisure, we ignore a serious mental health concern that plagues many countries in the West Indies.
What I find ironic about this is how marijuana, a far less physiologically addictive substance, is vilified based on pure mythology (and institutionalized racism) while we let alcohol into our homes with REAL KNOWLEDGE of the harmful impact that it can have. Marijuana doesn’t “cause” people to go mad, neuroscientists have proven that to be false. But alcohol DOES cause cirrhosis of the liver.
One substance is illegal while the other is introduced to children around the age of their First Holy Communion in the Catholic Church. Guess which one causes overdose and which one doesn’t?
There’s a gross hypocrisy in how we treat alcohol in this country. Instead of locking up or vilifying people for using drugs that are less physiologically addictive AND less harmful, why don’t we focus our efforts on the drug that anyone can buy anywhere (I haven’t been carded in Saint Lucia my entire life), the drug that can exacerbate abusive situations, the drug that leads to excessive violence, the drug that can tear families apart, and the drug that can kill you.