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Fear of vulnerability drives people to ignore health: doctor

Stanley James (File photograph)

A sense of security and trust will ensure that people visit a doctor more often to take care of their health, according to a physician.

Stanley James warned that a fear of vulnerability drove people to ignore their health and become reluctant to visit a doctor.

He added that a “culture of shame” reinforced these fears for many Bermudians and even drove many to alcohol and drug use to cope.

Dr James said: “There is this deep societal view of oneself that ‘I’m not enough, I’m inadequate, I’ve got to always present my best foot even though I’m not doing well, I’ve got to look good’.

“That is a part of the culture, and it’s not healthy, it’s pathology.”

He added: "This is a difficult discussion to have, but if he keep these discussions private then the people who need to hear it won’t hear it.“

Dr James, who runs Premier Health and Wellness Centre on King Street, was speaking during a meeting with the Hamilton Rotary Club on Tuesday.

He told the club that this culture of shame manifested itself in several ways, such as a need to look one’s best and in control, and included an ambivalence towards check-ups.

Dr James explained that many were reluctant to go to the doctor because they did not want to feel vulnerable around others.

He added that this seemed especially true for Black Bermudians, many of whom were treated by White physicians and may withdraw from care because of mistrust.

Dr James said that much of this culture of shame and mistrust developed for Black Bermudians and Black Caribbeans during the colonial era when native African cultures were criminalised and a sense of culture was lost.

He added: “We’ve been taught as people to keep it to ourselves because you can’t show too much of your hand because you’re vulnerable and people might take advantage of you.

“You don’t want to lose control because you grew up in a society that makes you not know where to turn to.”

Dr James said this fear of vulnerability caused many to neglect their health problems and allow them to get worse.

He added that the feeling of constant discomfort that comes from the fear of judgment drove many to alcohol and drugs, which only worsened health problems.

Dr James also told the club of his own experience with this insecurity after he became bedridden with sickness but felt too ashamed to go to the hospital.

He said: “Shame and fear and insecurity occupied much of my mind at the time because men, particularly in our culture and our community, we don’t want to show weakness and vulnerability.

“It fills us with a sense of impotence and it sometimes suggests that we’re not enough.”

Dr James said the best way to combat this toxic culture was with a strong sense of belonging and “a place that you can call home”.

He also encouraged others to find a community of like-minded people.

He added: “Be an advocate for yourself and openly discuss your health with others, because you’re going to discover there are more people for you than against you.

“I get it; sometimes you feel alone. I want you to know right now that you are not alone — help is on the way.”

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Published June 17, 2022 at 7:47 am (Updated June 17, 2022 at 7:47 am)

Fear of vulnerability drives people to ignore health: doctor

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