The Mental & Physical Health Impact of Dumsor on The Lifestyle of Ghanaians- An Interview With Psychologist Dr. Annie Gaisie
There's been endless conversations about how the energy crisis in Ghana has led to job-cuts, business closures, demonstrations and the deepening of the daily struggles of the average Ghanaian.
But there hasn't been much talk around how this crisis is affecting the mental and physical health of the citizens. We cannot ignore the fact that people being laid off, businesses being closed down can lead to serious health effects and it thus falls on us to be aware of how to prevent or reduce the risks to such exposure.
I interviewed Dr. Annie-Gaisie, a renowned psychologist to share more of her knowledge on how dumsor is affecting the mental and physical health of Ghanaians.
OQ - Ghana is experiencing a power crisis and this has led to immense layoffs, closure of businesses, reduced ROI's etc. Can you share what in your experience would be the mental impact of this on the lives of Ghanaians?
The impact of Dumsor on Ghanaians has led to not just layoffs but also has or is having a psychological effect on those laid off and those whose businesses have collapsed. Depression, sleepless nights and panic attacks are just some examples of the acute and chronic symptoms being experienced by them. In my line of work, i meet with clients who suffer some of these symptoms but often as well non-clients approach me with the difficulty they are experiencing with regards to the power crisis. Most complaints relate to inability to pay school fees due to a layoff and this leads to a worried or anxious state. Being unable to fulfil one's obligations leads to a state of grumpiness and anger. Students are unable to study properly as most of them learn in the evening after class. In most schools tutorials are also arranged early evening but without electricity most of these are cancelled thus affecting the student's ability to earn good grades. Its also interesting to note that we live in a time where most teachers post assignments online and now this being hampered by the power outages. Low grades affects the mental psyche of any student who has prepared mentally to pass with flying colours.
Marriages are being also being affected because when a partner comes home and there's no light, they are only left with an option of going to bed after a few minutes. This is especially true for those without generators. Electricity has become a luxury for Ghanaians
Subconsciously when something becomes part of you you have a great need for it to survive, when its taken away your brain activity craves it more and develops a strong need for it to come back. A craving has thus been created for electricity. Thats why when the lights come back on, everyone rejoices! The craving has been satisfied.
OQ- With employee layoffs occuring during this crisis, what is the ripple effect on the society?
Once an individual suffers, then his society and then the economy suffers! Ghanaians who have moved back home after living abroad for so long and are looking to invest in the country are frustrated with the power crisis. This is because they have come from the western world where the grid constantly works into a society where rampant outages frustrates their attempt at starting a business which can provide employment for Ghanaians. They are bringing money into the economy but the crisis is preventing them from doing so.
OQ- Ghanaians, we are very spiritual. Most of us seek God in times of such a crisis. However are there other solutions available to us in the physical?
We must seek to embracing change. We all go through change from childhood to adulthood. We have to understand that what we are going through is a temporal change. There are practical aspects we can do as individuals and groups. Associations can come together to contribute a generator to power their offices and also organise group meetings to talk about the stress they are facing. Talking things through helps to reduce the anxiety and depression. We shouldn’t let this challenge take over us.
OQ- What can companies do to reduce the impact of the energy crisis on their employees
Companies can look at other options aside laying off their employees. Working from home can be a solution for companies to save on consumption of electricity. If they assess the work of their employees they would realise that some do not necessarily have to be in the office but can actually work from home. We have some executives who are paid very high bonuses which can be cut or frozen for a couple of months till the crisis is over. The cuts would provide additional finances which can be paid to employees.
Another solution would be to bring specialists to talk to employees on financial management, starting a business, counselling sessions, etc. One thing which i have also spoken of but which some are against is that instead of having 50% labor cuts the company can reduce employee salaries by 30% which is better than sending people home completely. Since this is a temporal solution, it's a better way to go so that people can pay off loans and school fees. Most Ghanaians have taken loans on their houses, cars, school fees, etc and being laid off makes it impossible to finish paying off to banks. Banks can also help their clients with payment holiday for borrowers within a certain time frame or come out with easier payment options and negotiations on loan payment.
OQ- Thank you for your time and practical solutions for Ghanians in this challenging time.
You are most welcome!
To contact Dr Annie-Gaisie, you can find her on Facebook @AnnieGMentalWellbeing or email her firstname.lastname@example.org
How are you dealing with the Dumsor so far? Are you able to work more effectively as an employee or employer? What are the cost-saving measures that you are making to keep your business afloat? Have you been laid off because of the power crisis? How are you keeping? Do lets share more in the comments below. On Twitter there's the hashtag #DumsorChat by BloggingGhana which you can follow up on for more stories on effects of Dumsor.