The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that approximately 800 000 persons die by suicide each year. As it regards to Jamaica, at least one person dies by suicide every week, about twenty have attempted and many others have contemplated the idea.
Dr Donovan Thomas, founder of Choose Life International, states that the government needs to revamp its initiative in tackling the problem at hand as it relates to suicide in Jamaica. Dr Thomas was recommended to us after speaking to the Child Development Agency who felt he would be in a better position to provide us with all the information we sought.
He proclaimed: “There needs to be a national policy in the educational system… the government needs to invest more in schools and the workforce so that persons will know what to do and how to help.”
Suicide has recently risen to the forefront as a major social problem after numerous consecutive reports of persons claiming their own lives surfaced earlier in the year. Among the notable cases are, a second form student of the Wolmer’s Boys’ School took his own life by using his father’s gun and a UTECH student was found hanging by a tree in the community of Cooreville Gardens, St Andrew. In a recent statistic, it was noted that six persons committed suicide in the month of May.
It is highly important to note however, that the majority of the cases documented consist of male victims. In Dr Thomas’ book, Confronting Suicide: Helping Teens at Risk, a cited statistical report from the Jamaican Police Statistics Department showed that between the years of 1996-2009, 682 males committed suicide.
Dr. Thomas mentions that though women are more likely to attempt suicide, men are more liable to die from the act as males perform more strenuous measures such as hanging or the use of a gun while females turn toward pills in an effort to overdose themselves.
The reason he gives for the high cases of male suicides tends to focus around four areas: psychological factors, economic factors, religious factors and socialization factors.
Psychologically speaking, it is the norm for men not talk about their problems: to find easy distractions such as alcohol, drugs and sports then when the issue becomes too much to handle, suicide is often the highly thought option. Men also feel compelled in taking their own lives due to the immense economic constrain placed on them.
It in an essence becomes an egotistical problem when these roles cannot be fulfilled and the usual slump in depression and a feeling of failure often follows. Religiously, more women tend to adhere to the teachings of the bible to help guide them through difficult situations. Less men follow this suit so they lack a sense of guidance and direction as to how to deal with a particular situation.
Lastly, the way in which males are socialized from birth, often taught to distinguish sadness and weakness as female qualities. This results in them hiding their true feelings in fear of being called weak or feminine.
Other notable factors that contribute to suicide overall are death and loss, guilt and hostility, broken love affair, molestation at home, revenge, escape etc.
How to identify someone who may want to commit suicide? Indicators of vulnerability to suicide or warning signs to suicide are very clear as stated by Dr Thomas’ book. If the person were to utter a threat to his or her life, withdrawal from friends/family and complaints of being rotten inside are all signs that that individual may be contemplating taking their own life.
Persons who are suicidal just want someone to listen to them, someone to trust and someone that will put an arm around them and show them that they care. They do not want to be told what to do nor do they wish to be interrogated. It is imperative that as a nation, though not known to have a necessarily high suicide rate, to ensure that the number of reports on suicide go down and this can only be done by looking out for one another and helping someone who seems to be struggling. As the saying goes ‘one suicide is too many’ and the statistics can only go down if everyone shares that sentiment.
Written By: Brian Pitter
Published: Monday, July 04, 2016