By Romell Eubank
Jamaica, as a society, has a relatively low suicide rate, the death rate from suicide being approximately 2.1 per 100,000, with statistics from the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) reflecting between 47 and 56 deaths per year due to suicide. These statistics were provided by Dr. Christopher Tufton, Health and Wellness Minister in his World Health Day message.
Despite having low rates for suicide, it is still a problem in our society. There are many contributing factors to suicide in our society, some of which include mental health disorders, domestic disputes, peer pressure and also depression brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Dr. Christopher Tufton Health and Wellness Minister, research has shown that family disruption, trauma, grief, loss, economic problems and relationship issues are some of the major contributing factors that cause suicide. We saw in early 2020 where many domestic disputes resulted in suicide, such as in the case of JDF soldier Doran McKenzie, where it is alleged that he chopped his common-law wife and then used a gun to commit suicide.
It is important that we understand that we all can and should be playing a major role in the suicide prevention campaign.
We can increase suicide awareness using various means. Suicide awareness is the effort to increase realization, awareness and understanding of suicidal behavior. We have seen many advocates and organizations on World Suicide Prevention Day publish posters and videos aimed at increasing suicide awareness. Kudos to the advocates who make it a day-to-day habit of increasing suicide awareness. We all should also make it a day-to-day campaign and not just something we do only on World Suicide Prevention Day.
The government and private sector can invest in television and social media ads with similar effort and style to what is being done to encourage citizens to stay safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. What is also important is the use of persons who overcame suicidal thoughts and persons who have attempted suicide but have holistically turned their life around, in these advertisement campaigns to share their stories and tell how they overcame. This will give persons who are battling suicidal thoughts, at the very least, a glimmer of hope, since they will see that other persons have overcome and that they can overcome too.
Additionally, we can each be our brother’s or sister’s keeper. This is a method that doesn’t cost money. We can save one life by talking to someone and by reaching out to and supporting them. Many persons go through depression, daily. It is important that we talk to them, send a text message of encouragement, send a motivational quote or check up on them in whatever way possible. We cannot live our lives focusing only on our own well being. If we want a better society we need to support persons in need – not just financially or with basic necessities – but with kind words of motivation.
Many persons cannot afford to see a counsellor or psychologist in a society like Jamaica where oftentimes only the wealthy can be found at a counsellor or psychologist’s office. In these instances, pastors, deacons, church members, community members and parents have a big role to pay. Many persons facing depressions are told simply to pray. Praying is important, but it is also important to have someone there for support and perhaps even to pray with. This method tackles depression because it is one of the major contributors to suicide and suicidal thoughts.
Sometimes persons carry out and engage in negative actions because of the pain they go through. Some people have suicidal thoughts and attempt suicide because the mental pain they feel is unbearable – a pain that can be eased by a hug, a friendly note or any other form of motivation and support. Advertisement campaigns can also let persons know that the government, public sector and society on a whole is with them and will let them know that people care.
Let us be our brother’s and sister’s keeper. Suicide prevention is everybody’s business.
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