The Jamaica Psychological Association (JamaPsych) has joined the recent public discourse on a recent U Report survey which revealed that more than 53 per cent of 1,090 young people, aged between 13 and 29, admitted to have considered suicide.
However, the poll also revealed that the majority of responders have never attempted to commit suicide, with only 31 per cent revealing that they made moves to do so.
But regional clinical psychologist at the North East Regional Health Authority and executive board member of JamPsych, Dr Pearnel Bell, in an interview with the Jamaica Observer, noted a high number of attempted suicide cases in regional hospitals throughout the island.
“There is a high number of parasuicide incidents coming into the hospitals, especially among teens. The exact statistics as to suicide ideation is not readily available but could be measured in part by the number of parasuicide cases reported in the accident and emergency department of regional hospitals throughout the country,” Dr Bell stated.
She also unveiled statistics from the Economic and Social Survey produced by the Planning Institute of Jamaica which showed that 55 Jamaicans committed suicide in 2016, a decrease from the 59 cases in 2015. The figures for 2017 are not yet published.
Although statistics show that Jamaica has one of the lowest rates of suicide per capita, Dr Bell said that the factors which lead to suicide and suicidal ideations, such as mental illness abound, and should not be ignored.
“Suicide and suicide ideation should be taken very seriously. Studies have actually shown that most persons who commit suicide were, at the time of the act, suffering from clinical depression. The global statistics indicate that one in four persons will experience a mental illness at some time in their lives.
“Many young persons at some time may have had suicidal ideations, especially when faced with a stressful situation,” Dr Bell stated.
Following a comment from noted psychiatrist Professor Fredrick Hickling, that ‘Jamaicans do not kill themselves’, Dr Bell also emphasised that “the days of scoffing at mental illness should be long behind us, and a more proactive approach taken to help stave off mental illness by putting appropriate measures in place to help create mental wellness in the family, organisations and the society as a whole.”
She also noted that there are a number of psychosocial factors that could impact on young people’s mental health, including family discord and sexual physical and emotional abuse. But Dr Bell noted that excessive social media habits may be exacerbating mental illness among young people.
“In the school environment it could be bullying and cyber bullying. Many young people’s definition of themselves today is linked to social media. When this sense of self is eroded by cyberbully, it could result in self-harming behaviour.
Another recent U Report survey on the impact of social media on adolescent and youth mental health revealed that 47 per cent of 821 respondents, aged 13-29, believed that social media had the most impact on their mental health.
“We want young persons to be aware that for every problem there is a solution, and self-harming behaviour is not a problem-solving strategy. Suicide ideations do not help; [they] only hinder problem-solving strategies. If they are feeling depressed, tell someone who can provide the help they need to feel better and to get on with life that is so full of hope,” Dr Bell continued.
Given the new school year, Dr Bell is also advising schools to look more closely at the issue of bullying so as to mitigate mental health issues among adolescents.
“Students who are facing any psychosocial issues should find a trusted adult whom they can share their concerns with so that they can receive help. Schools should provide students with available resources, if they are facing any issues, where they can go to get help. Schools should provide public education on for example, bullying — what the victim can do and the action that will be taken against the perpetrator.
“Schools should also bear in mind that students who bully are usually facing their own psychological crisis and is using bullying as a coping mechanism. Schools should also seek help for the bully so that they can address their psychological issues and find more adaptive ways of coping,” she said.
BY SHARLENE HENDRICKS
Published: Sunday, September 02, 2018