by Melisse Ogilvie, Social Worker
While I sat on Grand Anse Beach basking in the refreshing rays of the sunshine and sea breeze, feeling such peace and joy, a young lady was, from all reports, at the same time contemplating ending her life.
In recent weeks, our country was wrecked with news of 2 suicides and, we do not know the number of other actual suicide attempts. We grapple to make sense of it all.
As we observe Mental Health Awareness Month, it’s important for us to understand mental health, and in particular, what drives people to suicide and its impact. A person who has reached the end of their tether, feels hopeless and sees no future, will likely attempt to end their life. Some people may feel they do not have the ability or the support to come out of that dark hole.
During this pandemic, with fears of the disease running rampant, lockdowns, loss of livelihood, and other life-changing events, the internal turmoil is perpetuated, causing some to “tip over the edge”. This is particularly the case for people who have had periods of mental ill-health or an undiagnosed mental illness. Unfortunately, too many people are still apprehensive to seek professional help for fear of being stigmatised. For this, we must take collective responsibility.
Mental illness is primarily caused by environmental and social factors. People with mental illness, those who are likely to commit suicide, might have been victims of abuse or experienced some traumatic event, and might never have recovered from the experience.
Mental Illness could also be caused by chemical imbalances in the brain or drug-induced. We need to accept that, whatever the cause, mental illness is real and anyone could be diagnosed with it.
Who is affected by suicide?
It affects the families and friends dealing with the aftermath. They may have feelings of guilt, shame and anger. Although having these emotions is understandable, it is hoped that they will receive the support and help to process those feelings and deal with the grief. This is necessary so that they too, do not become susceptible to feelings of hopelessness.
Suicide may also affect the professionals, community members, or neighbours responding to or discovering the individual. Since this is also a traumatic event, it is important for them to receive support to manage any associated emotions and flashbacks, thus minimising the impact of this event on their wellbeing.
If a person has survived an attempt, in our society, they will always have that label attached to them, which can severely impact their recovery. Hopefully, they are able to receive the help they need and move on to live a fruitful life.
What can we do?
There are many reasons why a person may determine that suicide is the only option. Whether we understand this or not, we are called to be people who are compassionate and empathetic.
Remember, we have different outlooks and lenses through which we view our circumstances. We also have different coping mechanisms and different support networks. These impact our ability to deal with mental illness. It may not be enough to pray away the situation.
Regardless of what we think of suicide, let us all be sensitive to the emotional needs of the people in our world and try or best to reach out to them. We can start by paying attention to the signs that a person may need help. These are: increased use of drugs and alcohol, insomnia, delusion, changes in mood/behaviour, self harming, initial threats of suicide, changes in work performance and reduced interest in hobbies, self- isolation, promiscuity etc.
Let us be our brother’s keeper!