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FAMILY FUSION: Suicide – the reality

Rev Haynesley Griffith

FAMILY FUSION: Suicide – the reality

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I NEVER GAVE much thought to suicide until my two sons, then at primary school, developed a love for fresh water fish and decided to bring some home. They placed them in a sizable glass container and began to admire them swim around in their newly acquired home. They could not wait to get an aquarium to place their new attraction in a more secure environment.  

The next morning, with all smiles, they fed their sprightly creatures and were off to school. They were eager and excited to get back home to enjoy moments with their new water friends.

That evening when they finally got home and dashed toward the glass container, they noticed that two of their cherished friends were on the floor. They had leapt out of the container and apparently committed suicide. It was a sad afternoon for my two sons. However, they were able to muster up some courage later and had a good laugh at the whole event.  

That piece of drama had to do with fish but when it comes to human life, suicide is no laughing matter. Its very nature suggests far more implications for the humankind than any other creature on earth.

According to the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) and the World Health Organisation (WHO), “suicidal behaviour has becomea major public health problem across the world”. At its tenth anniversary World Suicide Prevention Day September 2012 and again at its 12th anniversary held in Geneva 2014, these two international organisations revealed some shocking realities regarding suicide across the world. 

Every 40 seconds a person commits suicide, which calculates to about one million people per year. This number has nothing to do with those who attempt suicide, which is about 20 times higher than those who follow through with the act. One can imagine the impact suicide can have on family, friends, communities, governments, the workplace, just to list a few.

In addition, the previously mentioned published 2014 report also revealed that the 15-29 age group and elderly people 70 years and older are the highest casualties in the suicide dilemma.   In fact, the report further discloses that not only the cost to economies is estimated in the billions of dollars, but also the number of people losing their lives via suicide is higher than the combined number of persons who lose their lives yearly worldwide in war and homicide. 

Today, I want to expose certain realities in this gloomy area of suicide. I would also take it a step further within the next few weeks by uncovering some reasons why persons may go the route of suicide, some potential signs and finally follow up by giving some possible resolutions to the issue. The reality is, every person is vulnerable to suicide. Situations can arise from a variety of circumstances that can lead to suicide ideation. 

I remember that as a youngster growing up there were a few frustrating points in my life that caused thoughts of suicide to cross my mind. Over the years

I have spoken with children, adolescents, adults, old, middle age, people of different religious persuasions and diverse strata of life who have all expressed that at some time in their journey of life they have had strong thoughts of committing suicide. 

I have also had to intervene and guide persons away from their well ordered plan and divert from and, in some cases, remove the means by which the individuals were deciding to end their own lives. I have also had  to guide some individuals in a positive path after they attempted suicide, so that the optimistic flames of meaning and purpose could be embraced once more.  

I have personally known of a few who unfortunately followed through with their actions which resulted in much pain and sorrow to many in their circle of influence. 

In some parts of the East there are those who view taking their own lives as an honour, especially under the persuasion of religion.

In our region, WHO reports that “Guyana is the country with the highest estimated suicide rate for 2012 globally, and Suriname has the sixth highest”. That statistic has not changed according to that international agency. The Global School Health Report also expressed concerned within Trinidad and Tobago and revealed in 2012, at the IASP Conference, “there has been a significant increase in the number of reported suicides with an average of 1 000 admissions annually related to self-harm or suicide at each Regional Health Authority”.

This twin island state was one of the many countries that linked with WHO Mental Health Action Plan 2013-2020 to reduce the suicide rate by ten per cent by the year 2020. In other Caribbean countries, including Barbados, statistics are not available but it does not suggest that suicide does not occur in them.

The reality is that some individuals may not even use the word suicide but terms like euthanasia, a method where people decide that prolonged sickness does not merit prolonged life and that therefore one way of leaving this world is having whatever life support is keeping them alive removed.

So grave is the suicide situation worldwide, that on June16 to 20, the WHO and the IASP, along with a number of other participants, will meet in Montreal for the 28th World Congress of IASP. According to president Professor Ella Arensman, greater steps will be taken to deal with this worldwide perennial headache. Let us all pray for a successful conference and that every one of us would take serious steps to work toward reducing suicide among us at every level. 

Next time I will advance some of the reasons people may commit suicide.

• Reverend Haynesley Griffith is a marriage and family life consultant. Email [email protected]