THIS month of September is dedicated to suicide prevention. The Trinidad and Tobago Association of Psychologists (TTAP) continues its mission to bring awareness to the public, of this mental illness which afflicts us.
The 2018.11.20 sixth report on Social Services and Public Administration’s Inquiry into Mental Health Services and Wellness and Facilities in Trinidad and Tobago, Clause 2.2 (a) states: Trinidad and Tobago is ranked third highest in the Caribbean with respect to the prevalence of mental illness. This is a public health issue. An ex-minister of health stated that our suicide rate is higher than the US.
For me, definitions help to give me a focus. What is suicide? ‘Suicide means ending your own life. It is sometimes a way for people to escape pain or suffering. When someone ends his/her own life, we say that they ‘died by suicide.’ A ‘suicide attempt’ means that someone tried to end their life, but did not die.’ (Google). What are the reasons why children who are just at the beginning of life, want to end life?
What causes a man to murder the mother of his children, and then, end his own life?
The definition above has the main reason: ‘to escape pain or suffering.’ When I speak with parents, I always ask: ‘When the nurse brings you this little bundle to hold and cuddle as a new life begins, do you see this child as a happy, productive, successful teenager or young adult?
They all have bewildered looks on their faces. Under what circumstances did this new life begin? Just by chance or what was the plan? We must know that if we want to know the end we must look at the beginning. A 14-yearold hangs himself. He commits suicide. Life was so painful that this child needed some way out of his suffering. Some resort to cutting/self-harm. They report that looking at the open wound feels like the pain is being released. One young man said to me that pain is his friend. He came for anger management. A man murders the mother of his children and then commits suicide. No thought is given to the children they both gave life. What will their children’s life be like?
Suicides can be prevented, but as a society we must have a healthy respect for life, we must have professionally-manned centres all over this country to help people through their pain and suffering. A man tells his brother (who came to him with problems he was facing with his wife): ‘Allyuh have to talk about it.’ A mother says: ‘You know how many times I talk to this boy?’ It is time that we understand that we cannot heal a mental illness by sitting in an armchair, rocking chair or standing under a tree. Healing a mental illness is a process that takes time. I repeat, it is not done by magic.
For a country to have the third highest rate for both mental illnesses and suicides in the Caribbean region, the powers that be must take this seriously. Having a mentally-healthy citizenry is an imperative.
TTAP has been advocating for a national psychological trauma centre for well over 15 years. It will be the saddest day when the research is done again and we find ourselves moving up from the third rung in the ladder to the second. What will be the state of our State at this point?
More night persons populating the sidewalks in the city. More dropouts and persons wanting to escape pain and suffering?
Frederick Douglass left us with these words of wisdom: ‘It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.’
Anna Maria Mora Counselling psychologist past president, TTAP