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'Life is precious, celebrate life'

Wayne
Campbell

Monday, September 11, 2017

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According to the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately 800,000 people die annually due to suicide. The WHO also reports that in 2015 suicide was the second-leading cause of death among the 15-29-year-old population. Unfortunately, as depression in the society grows, due to a state hopelessness and despair, it is very likely to have more attempts at suicide.

Research also points to an association between suicide and mental disorders. The rate of suicide is also high among vulnerable groups which experience discrimination, such as refugees and migrants, indigenous peoples, lesbians, gays, bisexual, transgender, and those who are incarcerated. Males are particularly at risk at taking their lives due to how they are socialised to being macho. This macho-induced model of socialisation fuels the perception of maleness and masculinity and prevents men from seeking the necessary help and/or support in working out personal and relational issues, which oftentimes are at the root of suicide.

Jamaica recorded 53 cases of suicide in 2012 and 52 cases in 2013. Jamaica's 2.6 suicidal rate per 100,000 of the population is considered relatively low; however, this does not mean that we should not continue to highlight this social problem by raising awareness. Other countries in the Western Hemisphere have varying suicidal rates: Cuba's suicidal rate is 17.0 per 100,000 of the population for males and 4.2 for females. Guyana's suicide rate for males is 46 and 15.5 among the female population.

According to the WHO, 78 per cent of global suicides occur in low- and middle-income countries. Suicide knows no borders, educational levels, nationality, or religion and impacts the families of those who take their lives. It is a complex issue and, as a result, suicide prevention requires not only the health sector to address this problem, but suicide prevention necessitates a collaborative approach across multiple sectors to include education, the Church, labour, agriculture, and the media. In response to the global challenge suicide poses it is important that we pause on the 15th anniversary of World Suicide Prevention Day, recognised yesterday, September, 10 to raise consciousness of the complexities surrounding suicide and provide support through community-based actions to those who feel stressed out.

Signs of depression

A colleague of mine who suffers from mild depression shared some thoughts with me. He told me of some of the signs he experiences. “Not excited about things you normally love, being withdrawn, neglecting family and friends, moody, as well as can't get out of bed.” He added, “People need to know and realise suicide is associated with mental illness, but we are not mad people.” He went to say, “Families need to know signs of depression which can lead to suicide. They need to know how to deal with the family members and friends. They need not to ignore the signs but try to help. [Additionally,] organisations that deal with mental illness need to mek more noise, we need to hear from them.” We need to be more attentive to family members and friends, as well as we need to pay more attention to our own mental health.

The way forward

In recognition of World Suicide Prevention Day, the ninth suicide seminar was held at the Jamaica Conference Centre on Friday, September 8. The seminar was a collaborative effort by Choose Life International, the Mental Health Department of the Ministry of Health, and the Social Welfare Training Centre at The University of the West Indies. The event was free to the public. More sessions like this are needed.

Suicide is a serious public health problem and it is preventable. It is important to note that suicide is among the proposed indicators of the health-related Sustainable Development Goals adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in September 2015. We oftentimes fail to realise that our physical health is dependent upon our mental health. As a society we need to foster a culture of collective responsibility, whereby individuals feel a sense of well-being and comfort in seeking help for their mental state.

The theme for World Suicide Prevention Day is 'Life is precious, celebrate life'. We all have a role to play in preventing suicide; one life lost to suicide is one too many.

When you feel like giving up, just remember the reason you held on for so long. — Unknown

Wayne Campbell is an educator and social commentator with an interest in development policies as they affect culture and or gender issues. Send comments to the Observer or waykam@yahoo.com, @WayneCamo.

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