Mental health advocate: Black Panther saved my life

Dr Varma Deyalsingh with Nicole Cowie mental health advocate at the World Menthal Health Day Symposium held at Gulf City. - Vashti Singh
Dr Varma Deyalsingh with Nicole Cowie mental health advocate at the World Menthal Health Day Symposium held at Gulf City. - Vashti Singh

SUICIDE is preventable, and kindness is a cure.

Nicole Cowie, who has struggled with suicidal urges, made the statement as she appealed for people to be kind, as it could save a life.

“Be a kind, decent human being to someone in need for that one second. You don’t know how you can save a life.”

Cowie was part of the Ministry of Health’s World Mental Health Day observance at Gulf City, La Romaine on October 10. This year’s theme was suicide prevention.

She gave a moving testimony about her struggles with suicide and told the audience how the Avengers movie series, especially Black Panther, starring Tobagonian actor Winston Duke, saved her life.

“I wanted to watch Black Panther, and that is how I began to survive. I wanted to watch another movie in the Avengers series, and that is how I decided to live. Live to the next movie and to the next movie, until I found myself living again.”

Dr Varma Deyalsingh, psychiatrist and senator, said Cowie was one of the ministry’s success stories. She got a degree in sociology from the University of the West Indies, St Augustine, and advocates for mental health and disability.

Deyalsingh said every time someone gives a reason why they can’t continue their studies, he holds up Cowie as an example.

However, Cowie said even though she is an advocate and can stand on a platform and lend a voice to the voiceless, “I am still going through everything. I still have suicidal feelings, still have to get through it and access mental health services.”

Dr David Ibeleme, principal medical officer, epidemiology, agreed that suicide is everyone’s business, as it cuts across races, socio-economic groups and ages.

He endorsed Cowie’s statements that an individual can be the difference between someone making the tragic decision to end his/her life or seeking help and ultimately treatment for thoughts of suicide.

He urged the audience and the wider population to be patient and non-judgmental listeners, as the stigma of sucide often prevents people from seeking counselling or treatment.

Dr Eldonna Boisson, adviser, disease surveillance and epidemiology at PAHO/WHO, said TT has a suicide rate of 14.4 per 100,000, which is above the global rate of 10.7 per 100,000.

She said with TT having the fifth highest suicide rate in the region, “PAHO/WHO is pleased that the Ministry of Health is working towards strengthening the country’s suicide prevention response.

“The development of the multi-sectoral suicide prevention strategy 2020-2025 is a step in the right direction.

“Suicide is a serious public health problem and therefore must be dealt with as such, ” Boisson said.


"Mental health advocate: Black Panther saved my life"

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