This week we turn the country’s attention to a very crucial issue that over the years has impacted severely on both young and older persons in the community. Families of the affected persons will live with this issue for the rest of their lives. And while there are hotlines and persons at the ready to assist those who are of a mind to engage in this act, from which not many come out of alive, the situation has reached a stage that now compels the nation to pay attention to it by aggressively presenting a plan for its elimination.
We are talking here about suicide, the act of intentionally causing one’s own death. Saint Lucia so far this year has recorded eight cases of suicide.
This is a worrisome situation, more so as those who intentionally take their lives are not from one demography but are spread across several.
Repeated calls by the Ministry of Health and Wellness to persons who find themselves thinking suicidal thoughts, to use the national helpline number 203 to get the support needed to overcome the issues driving them to go the suicidal route, seem not to be reaching them.
We join forces with the Ministry of Health and Wellness, the National Mental Wellness Center, counsellors and all those who have been trying to reach out to persons with issues likely to drive them to consider suicide to tell those persons to first think before you act.
The number 203 is for real and it works, yes it works. And it works on a landline as well as on a cellular (mobile) phone. All you have to do is dial 203 with the assurance that someone will answer. The best part, is that the call is free and is manned by someone on the other end 24 hours each day.
We have been reliably informed that anyone calling number 203 will be dealt with confidentially, meaning whatever information you give about yourself and whatever it is you are going through will be treated in a confidential manner as trained professionals will be the ones you will be talking to.
Those trained professionals will be able to direct you to other trained professionals able to give direct assistance. Family and friends of persons experiencing suicidal thoughts should also call the helpline on their behalf.
Can suicide be eliminated in the country? We certainly believe so, however it will take a communal effort, all of us, including the apparatus of the state, to eliminate this scourge.
There are several risk factors to take note of such as mental disorders, including depression, bipolar disorder, personality disorder, anxiety disorders, substance abuse and the list goes on. Impulsive acts due to stress from financial and academic difficulties, relationship problems, harassment, bullying and more.
We must not forget those who have previously attempted suicide as they are at a higher risk for future attempts and therefore would be in need of some form of care and attention.
We are appealing for effective suicide prevention efforts, which includes, among others careful, professional media reporting about the subject. Each community also has a responsibility to look after its own. It may be that suicide cannot be eliminated, but it can be ameliorated by us all being more of our brother’s keeper.
Suicide is a major public health problem the effects of which go beyond the person who acts to take his or her life: it can have a lasting effect on family, friends, and communities hence the need to treat this health problem immediately and effectively once the signs are seen.