It is a subject we have touched on before in this column, one that is difficult to discuss but which must be discussed as it is a major catastrophe for families, relatives, close friends and the society in general.
While in some quarters the subject is taboo, this act of intentionally taking one’s life, which happens as a result of so many stressful situations, has been a tough subject most (if not all) countries of the world have had to deal with year after year.
In Saint Lucia it is no less daunting as the authorities have been at their wits end in coming up with strategies aimed at mitigating such impulsive behaviour amongst Saint Lucians.
Already established is a national help line (#203) that comes with round the clock maintenance, meaning persons standing by at any hour of the day or night to assist anyone who rings it, proving that attempts have been made by local authorities to deal with the challenging and emotional issues many Saint Lucians have, which could lead them to suicide, attempted suicide or suicide ideation.
The authorities have been calling on Saint Lucians to use the national helpline to get the necessary help they need, recognising that suicide is a major public health problem and an avoidable cause of death to persons under stress.
Despite the efforts of the authorities to lessen the act or eradicate it all together, the act persists, sometimes rising in number when yearly comparisons are made.
What more can we do to raise people’s awareness of the fact that suicide prevention is a community goal? This question is something we all must give thought to, as the effects of suicide go well beyond the person who acts to take his or her life.
This too, is a difficult question to answer as suicide is a decision made often on the spur of the moment and it is almost impossible to know when such an act will occur. It is also difficult to predict who will act on their suicidal thoughts.
That suicide can have a lasting effect on family, friends, and communities is a given. One member of our staff is struggling to come to grips with last week’s suicide at the Respiratory Hospital as the deceased was his close friend.
Suicide, it is said, is something that will always be with us no matter how much we attempt to prevent it because there will always be individuals, driven by a variety of circumstances and illnesses, mental and physical, who find living intolerable.
Be that as it may, this does not mean that we should give up our attempts at saving the lives of persons entertaining suicidal thoughts. Neither should it cause us to lapse in diligently looking out for signs in persons that could lead them to thoughts of suicide.
Suicide is a fact of life in Saint Lucia. The quicker we come to accept that the better we would all deal with it. The community is needed to prevent it from occurring, not just one branch of the community.
We make yet another appeal to persons considering suicide. Before you perform the act, make a phone call to either to a friend, family member, pastor, priest or the national helpline telephone number 203. That call could make all the difference to you and those you love. Make that call!