WORLD Health Organisation (WHO) 2017 statistics showed that TT has the third highest suicide rate in the Caribbean, with someone in this country taking his/her life approximately every two days.
Dr Katija Khan, psychologist and senior lecturer in the MSc program in Psychology at UWI made the point at the TT Association of Psychologists’(TTAP) Suicide Awareness and Prevention seminar over the weekend at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex, Mt Hope.
She added that, in TT, more males died of suicide than females. She said women attempted but many survived while men used more fatal means. She said the methods changed over time but over the past few years the ingestion of tablets was most popular at 47 per cent, followed by the use of pesticides and weedicides at 25 per cent.
Khan said the precipitating factors, or what happened to trigger the suicide, were most often domestic disputes and alcohol use while psychiatric history was just five per cent. “That is one of the myths and stereotypes and stigmas, that it is people who are mentally ill are the ones who complete suicide and that just does not hold out. It’s one of the factors but the majority of people don’t necessarily have to have a psychiatric history.”
Another big myth, she said, was that if a person spoke about suicide it would be interpreted as encouragement or it could trigger someone to do it, so people shy away from talking about the issue. “When people are contemplating they often feel isolated and alone and they don’t know who they could talk to about something like that. And so talking openly, rather than encouraging, can give the person some time to air their thoughts, to rethink, and consider other options.”
Dr Margaret Nakhid-Chatoor, president of TTAP, added that suicide was a public health crisis that was preventable. She said stigma, lack of support, and the fear of rejection were a few of the things that keep people from seeking help when they are suicidal.
“In addition to the stigma attached to this public health issue, there is a lack of family support and a fear of social rejection as persons both young and old continue to struggle with challenges and can find no outlet to talk about their experiences.”
She said those left behind by a person who committed suicide were usually overwhelmed by regret and sadness, and it was heartbreaking to know it could have been avoided. She said they were also left with the unanswerable questions, Why? And how could I not have seen the signs?
“When it comes to suicide, the answers do not lie exclusively with healthcare professionals, politicians or even researchers. Each one of us has a role to play in building our national community that cares for its citizens and shows empathy across all levels.”