A recent opinion poll in the Caymanian Compass (Friday, 5 August) found that over 31 per cent of respondents believed that violent crime in Grand Cayman was ‘affecting the way they live a good amount’, and reported that it was the psychological effect that was having the most impact.
Sadly, crime and particularly violent crime, reported in the media and on our island is becoming more commonplace, and many of us are understandably concerned about how violent crime affects our family, friends, lifestyle and security.
Psychologist Abraham Maslow, in his well-documented hierarchy of needs, placed the need to feel safe second only to the physiological needs of water, breathing, food, etc. Therefore, the need to feel safe and secure in our home and in our community is essential to a healthy and happy life. When this is threatened, we understandably can feel anxious and upset.
When fear gets out of hand
Reports of violent crime can create feelings of fear, anxiety, insecurity, anger or perhaps a combination of emotions. Our behaviour is also affected. If we feel anxious and unsafe, then we may stop going out, especially in the evening, curb our usual social or community activities, feel more ‘jumpy’ at noises in the yard or outside (called a ‘heightened startle response’). Without minimising what is happening, it’s important not to let your fear or anxiety dictate the way you live your life. If you find yourself getting unnecessarily anxious, perhaps isolating yourself or avoiding usual places and activities, then your fear may be getting out of hand.
Take back control
So, if you recognise that you are becoming distressed to such a level where the fear of crime is negatively impacting your life, then it’s time to identify exactly what is causing this stress and take action. Rather than start a self-imposed curfew at night, or allow your fear to take over where you stop doing the activities you enjoy, take a step back and ask yourself, are there any reasonable measures I can take to help ensure my safety and reduce my levels of stress?
If you’re glued to the media, TV, newspapers or online news, then decide to limit your news consumption. In an anxious state this won’t be good for your stress levels and may potentially impact your work, personal life and relationships. If you have always enjoyed the daily news or need to know what’s going on, then commit to reading or watching for a specific amount of time and then do something else. If you find yourself frequently in the middle of gossip about a particular case of incident, recognise that you have the choice to walk away and not allow yourself to get embroiled, therefore limiting your level of stress about the subject.
Revisit your personal safety measures, to maintain or reinforce your sense of safety, for example on the road or when out especially at night. Most of us have access to a mobile phone, so ensure that you have a system with friends to message when you get home, and know what you want them to do if they can’t reach you – all quite simple but nevertheless important.
If you feel your fear is getting out of perspective, which can happen, then talk it over with a trusted friend or family member, or consider seeing a counsellor. Here at EAP, we understand that our community is small and bad news can affect us, particularly for those who may have been a victim of crime; help is at hand.
For more information about EAP, please visit www.eap.ky. To speak with one of our professional counsellors, please call 949-9559 or email [email protected] to schedule a confidential appointment.
Emma Roberts is an EAP counsellor.