Jamaica's low suicide rate no reason to celebrate, warns counsellorWednesday, September 10, 2014
BY KIMONE THOMPSON Associate editor -- news firstname.lastname@example.org
THE number of Jamaicans who have claimed their own lives in the past two years have remained stable, at 53 (for 2012) and 52 (for 2013).
This is as per reports from the Jamaica Constabulary Force's Statistics Unit.
It may not be alarming, according to counsellor Dr Donovan Thomas, but it is no reason to celebrate either, as "suicide is under-reported".
"Jamaica has one of the lowest rates in the world, but I don't want us to become complacent and neglect the fact that we need to be proactive in suicide prevention," he told the Jamaica Observer, Monday.
"Almost everyday we see people who are suicidal. I stepped out of the office (a short while ago) to make a telephone call and there was a guidance counsellor making an enquiry about a student who is suicidal. We are finding people who are just hopeless, powerless and seeking for reasons to live," he continued.
And it's people from all walks of life.
"We're seeing people from all age bands and from all walks of life -- church, business community, the education sector, the unemployed, all walks of life," the counsellor added.
Thomas, who holds a doctorate in ministry, is president and co-founder of a faith-based suicide prevention and grief counselling outfit called Choose Life International, which he runs with his wife Faith, a counselling psychologist.
On the occasion of World Suicide Prevention Day, being observed today, the organisation will be hosting a seminar exploring what it says is a holistic approach to suicide prevention. Among the topics to be covered in the seminar are Research findings on suicide, and the roles of medicine, psycho therapy, social work, and spirituality in suicide prevention.
The event will be hosted at Hope Fellowship Church starting at 8:30 am, and will also serve as the platform to launch Thomas' second title -- Geared to Live: Twelve Keys to Happiness. His first book -- Confronting Suicide: Helping Teens at Risk -- was published in 2002 with a second edition appearing in 2010.
Speaking to the triggers of suicidal ideation, Thomas explained that people who entertain thoughts of killing themselves are affected by a range of issues, from social to economic.
"There is a high sense of hopelessness; many of them are abused; they lack positive relationships; some of them are coming out of broken love affairs; they have experienced the death of loved ones and feel that they can't continue life without those persons.
"There is also depression; research has shown that 90 per cent of those who follow through are people who are depressed. There are more depressed people in Jamaica than we want to admit and when issues come up they move on to wanting to hurt themselves," he said.
Thomas explained further that according to the World Health Organisation, 80 per cent of those who commit suicide are from the middle to lower economic strata of society. Experts are still divided on whether poverty in and of itself is a cause of suicide, or whether it is a trigger.
"What we are seeing is that a new word has been coined that defines the relationship between suicide and economic downturn," Dr Thomas said.
"In the Jamaican context there is also something that we call precipital or precipitated suicide where someone feels suicidal but instead of doing it directly, he gets involved in gangs, he gets involved in drugs and other risky behaviour which eventually leads to him killing himself," he continued.
He pointed out that there is also a type of suicide called tourism suicide, which happens in countries like Japan with its infamous suicide mountain.
Choose Life International offers psychiatric, grief and other types of counselling to corporate bodies, schools, churches, individuals, "and we are happy to report that by God's grace, nobody has ever come to Choose Life International who was suicidal and has gone on to kill himself or herself", according to Thomas.
"We are happy that we are able to make changes and to make significant contributions to help people to move," he told the newspaper.
The organisation also does what it calls happiness seminars because "we realise that happy people don't kill themselves".
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