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FAMILY FUSION: Suicide ­– possible solutions

Reverend Haynesley Griffith, [email protected]

FAMILY FUSION: Suicide ­– possible solutions

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THERE ARE NO easy solutions when it comes to resolving the perennial sickness of suicide. Nothing is foolproof because the dynamics of suicide attempted or followed through, can vary from person to person.

I want to recommend six areas which, when addressed, may be useful in minimising death by suicide.

The home

If an atmosphere of harmony is established and maintained within the home environment, I believe that the suicide rate will drop considerably. The home is the primary institution where children are shaped and fashioned.

The formative years of a child’s life can be greatly strengthened by endeavouring to foster healthy esteem levels. However, some parents and guardians formulate decisions that frustrate the personality development of the child. Such frustrations can act as fertile soil for suicide ideation to progressively germinate.

Negative parental behaviour like fighting, quarrelling, and verbal, mental as well as physical abuse can plant seeds of bitterness and resentment from the child toward one or both parents. This can indirectly affect the child’s mental health, giving rise to suicidal thoughts. Constantly speaking positively to your child, affirming, listening to and motivating them to develop their God-given capability, can create a positive atmosphere for the child’s stability and happiness.

Fostering a good home environment is an excellent means of short-circuiting any strong desires to attempt or commit suicide. As parents, seeking ways and means of getting to know more about your children and being aware of suicide triggers are useful both for you and your children. If you are unable to handle the situation yourself, seek the help of persons who are trained to guide you accordingly.

Institutions of learning

Educators at nursery, primary, secondary and tertiary levels are strategically placed to spot behavioural changes within the lives of their students with whom they interface on a regular basis. Noticing out-of-character behaviours such as sadness, depression, non-performance, withdrawals and aggression should suggest something might be affecting the student. Intervention may become necessary.

The chances of the average student trusting friendly and confidential teachers/tutors with sensitive information are very great. Teachers should therefore be trained to spot the sudden and deteriorating shifts in students’ behavioural patterns and take the requisite steps to alleviate a student’s move toward suicide. If the teacher/tutor cannot work with the student to shift his/her mind from negative thoughts, then seeking further help for the student may become necessary.

I know of vigilant teachers whose approach to their students and keen observational skills have prevented distraught students from suffering premature death. Averting a potential suicide can prevent the obvious serious impact, which often goes far beyond the child’s immediate family circle.

The church

Thousands of people of all ages flock to churches for different reasons. I have met several churchgoers who were heading down the route of suicide.

It is a mistake to believe that churchgoers may not commit suicide. Some do, raising searching questions in the mind of many who are left to ponder their own mortality. I am aware of individuals who, though church members, have sought the church’s services to help them from taking their own lives.

Church leaders must see golden opportunities to empower themselves and their staff in areas of counselling and critical incident stress management in order to deal with any suicide eventuality that may present itself within the church and the community in which the church serves. There are some churches that now use well-trained health care professionals to do proactive sessions dealing with stress management and related subjects, but the church still has a long way to go when it comes to more ministers sensitising their congregations to mental health challenges and consequences.

The workplace

The ongoing pressures that many employers and employees continue to face daily can be very demanding on the mind. The cumulative stress and distress, which plague individuals sometimes, cause workers to break emotionally and even surrender to suicidal thoughts, and unfortunately few may even follow through. It is encouraging to see some workplaces offering programmes that assist employer and employees to relieve some of the daily stress and tension.

An Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) deals with these employees’ issues. Although physical exercise is a great stress reliever, more needs to be done on a consistent basis to deal with the social, mental, emotional and spiritual state and development of employees. If the employees receive proactive or preventative treatment, such a balance may discourage suicide ideation.

EAPs have worked for some institutions by improving the quality of life for both management and staff. The business community should consider investing in such a valuable programme.

Health care providers

With the commencement of critical or crisis situations, some persons become emotionally overwhelmed. Because of the severe pressure trauma brings on the entire personality, the chances of individuals leaning toward suicide are very great.

Very often one of the first responders to a critical/ traumatic event is the health care provider. I believe therefore that all health care providers should be trained in critical incident stress management (CISM).

CISM is not counselling, as some persons may believe, but it is a level of training designed to prevent a person(s) undergoing the effects of a trauma from going from a stressed position into a distressed condition.

Government action

Because the diverse effects of suicide impact the society at every level, more than a cursory glance should be given to it by governments within our Caribbean region. Establishing national suicide units which are managed by a carefully selected group of volunteers, should do wonders in helping to decrease the number of suicides within respective territories.

These units should be free from political interference and given full authority to function within their well-structured professional terms of reference. One of the many actions these units should set up, for example, is a 24-hour suicide hotline.

The World Health Organisation has set a target for governments across the world to reduce the unusually high level of suicides by ten per cent by the year 2020.

The serious nature of suicide and all of its ramifications for families, communities, economies and governments should engage the attention of every concerned citizen. Let us all work toward preserving life; it is precious.

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