By Annan Boodram
News Americas, Georgetown, Guyana, Weds. Mar. 25, 2014: In the nine months since The Caribbean Voice launched its suicide prevention campaign, we have been appalled by the biases, prejudices, misinformation and disinformation that character attitudes towards suicide. In fact we have arrived at the distinct understanding that suicide prevention can only be effective when attitudes become more enlightened and sympathetic.
When a post was placed on a Facebook page requesting contacts to help organize the Black Bush Polder outreach, one commentator wrote, “All the names I want to give you have all committed suicide.”
And when his comment was pointed out to be in bad taste, he responded that he was not joking but trying to emphasize the magnitude of the problem. This lack of sensitivity is perhaps the number one misguided attitude. Also, based on feedback, it seems that sensitivity creeps in only when someone has been personally affected by suicide.
Furthermore we receive a lot of comments to do with God, religion and temples. Yes, faith-based counselors and individuals with deep religious convictions do believe that faith in God can help. In fact, one commentator posted, “Stop begging and send them to church to pray to God.”
So yes, we are certain that some suicidal individuals might have been brought out of that mindset by faith-based counseling. But faith-based counseling does not work with all, is not available to all and faith-based leaders are not generally equipped for clinical counseling.
Besides, people who deeply believe in God, still commit suicide. So while we endorse faith-based counseling as a strategy that may work for some, we believe that there must be a range of strategies and access so all can be reached.
Furthermore, a number of individuals also simply dismiss suicide as the victim’s personal choice and business, and feel there is no need to get involved in suicide prevention since nothing can really be done. Yet there is a tremendous body of literature and shared experiences that prove that something can indeed be done and that suicide is preventable.
So as we move forward, it becomes important to dispel some of the prevailing myths and misinformation about suicide. For too long suicide and factors the drive this crisis have been viewed as ‘taboo’ and not an appropriate topic to be discussed in public. That taboo must now be laid to rest.
Myth # 1: People who commit suicide want to die.
Fact: Suicide is seen as a way to end the pain. A suicidal person does not see any other option but those who have survived attempted suicide say they never wanted to die.
Myth #2: People, who talk about killing themselves, are just looking for attention and won’t do it.
Fact: If someone is talking about suicide, regardless of how it is expressed, it must be taken seriously. That person is in pain and crying out for help. If you’re in doubt, keeping talking to the person and listen carefully. Unless this is done that person could end up carrying out the threat.
Myth #3: If people are determined to kill themselves, then nothing is going to stop them.
Fact: Various studies indicate that showing someone you care and giving that person just five minutes of your time has proven to reduce suicidal attempts. A person’s urge to kill him/herself, regardless of the reason, is only temporarily. A study of those who survived the jump from the Golden Gate Bridge stated they would not have jumped if someone had just spoken or even smiled at them during their period of crisis.
Myth #4: People who commit suicide never tell or show any signs of distress.
Fact: In various studies it was noted that up to 80% of victims leave clues, either verbally or through their change in behaviors. That is why, it is important to learn about and become familiar with the warning signs.
Myth#5: Discussing suicide with someone will put the idea in his or her head.
Fact: Talking about suicide lets the person knows you care and that he/she is not alone. It gives a sense of relief and promotes a greater chance that the person will unburden himself/herself.
Myth #6: Only Indo-Guyanese commit suicide.
Fact: Guyanese of all ethnic backgrounds commits suicide.
Myth #7: Only the poor commit suicide.
Fact: Suicide does not discriminate and it can affect the lives of anyone regardless of social status or financial background, as has been seen over and over.
Myth #8: Telling someone to cheer up when he/she is depressed will stop him/her from acting crazy.
Fact: Telling someone to cheer up will cause more distress because it will appear as if that person’s feelings do not matter and the person is not being taken seriously.
Myth #9: People commit suicide on impulse or a whim.
Fact: People do not commit suicide on an impulse. Those who end their lives would have thought about it over and over in their mind; it’s this process that allows them to carry out the act.
Myth #10: Only cowards commit suicide.
Fact: It’s not a question or being a coward or being brave. The reality is that it is difficult to imagine the agony someone goes through before committing or attempting the suicide.
Myth #11: If you go to church you will not commit suicide.
Fact: Regular church attendance, by itself has not stopped individuals from committing suicide. And while belief and faith based counseling may help some it takes more than that to help others.
Myth #12: Only people who drink commit suicide.
Fact: Alcoholism or being under the influence of alcohol is not a reason for suicide, but may provide Dutch courage to the already suicidal.
Myth #13: People who commit suicide are selfish.
Fact: Actually its almost the opposite – people commit suicide because they think they are saving their loved ones from having to disrupt their lives to deal with the own pain and agony of the suicide victim.
Myth #14: People who commit suicide are stupid.
Fact: Stupidity has nothing to with it.
In the final analysis please remember that ‘Suicide Prevention is Everybody’s Business’ and if each of us plays a part, we can save lives and enable potential to flower. Also do remember that suicide is never an answer, no matter what the problem or issue is; suicide simply leaves too many unanswered questions. Finally suicide does not eradicate pain, it leaves behind a circle of agony that embraces those left behind.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Annan Boodram is founder of The Caribbean Voice and is ardently putting the spotlight on suicide in Guyana. For more join the conversation atwww.facebook.com/groups/suicideepidemic/ or CHECK out the group’s YouTube page.