Dr. the Hon. Duane Sands, Minister of Health, underscored the “critical” need for all persons to pay attention to the warning signs of suicide as they would cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension to aid in its reduction in The Bahamas. Dr. Sands officially opened a Suicide Prevention Symposium, Monday, September 10, 2018, at the Church of God Auditorium, Joe Farrington Road. The one-day event is sponsored by Sandilands Rehabilitation Centre (SRC) in conjunction with Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). The theme for the Symposium is ‘Working Together to Prevent Suicide.’ Around the globe, this day is being recognized as World Suicide Prevention Day (WSPD). Organizations and collaborators have been invited to organize events to mark WSPD 2018 to address the challenges presented by suicidal behavior and to highlight the need for collaboration, an essential ingredient in effective suicide prevention.
Dr. Sands remarked that the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that each year approximately one million people die from suicide which translates into one death by suicide every 40 seconds. He said WHO also predicts that by 2020 the rate of death by suicide will increase to one every 20 seconds. He emphasized the need for everyone to pay attention to the warning signs that a friend or loved one may be contemplating suicide. “Suicide, although it is an individual decision, in reality, is a family, community and national problem. It is against this backdrop that we should see the critical need for us to work together to combat this issue. We have the power to do so. We have the power to prevent the next suicide in this country. People who are suicidal are not weak. This is an unfortunate myth that perpetuates the stigma surrounding this issue. People who are suicidal are in great need of our empathy, compassion and time. The bottom line is, suicide is preventable,” said Dr. Sands. “Our responsibility in this fight is to keep ourselves and others better informed about the warning signs of suicide, just as we would for any other illness. The warning signs that persons who may be in acute danger and may need help urgently include: talking about wanting to die or kill oneself, looking for a way to kill oneself, talking about feeling hopeless or having no purpose, talking about feeling trapped or being in unbearable pain, talking about being a burden to others, increased intake of alcohol or drugs, acting anxious, agitated or reckless, sleeping too little or too much, withdrawing or feeling isolated, exhibiting rage or talking about seeking revenge and displaying extreme mood swings.”
He implored the audience to share the warning signs with others and stressed that information is the key to a collective approach to suicide prevention. Dr. Sands commended SRC and its partners for the symposium and for its continued commitment to raising awareness about suicide. He said this year’s theme should be more than a forgotten slogan but a creed to live by and inspire all to care for neighbors, friends, family and colleagues and themselves. Dr. Esther de Gourville, Pan American Health Organization, and WHO representative said suicide is the second leading cause of death among youths 15-29 years old. She said young people need help to cope with life’s challenges and are often unable to ask for and access the help that they need. To address the problem of increasing numbers of reported suicides, PAHO is implementing a mental health action plan for the period 2013-2020 the goal of which is to achieve a 10 percent reduction of suicide rates in the region of the Americas.
Dr. de Gourville said PAHO considers suicide to be a public health problem; PAHO continues to provide technical support on promoting mental health in The Bahamas and supports suicide prevention efforts through monthly sectoral collaborations and coordination. “We hope that this awareness raising will help persons to recognize when others are at risk of suicide, take action when you observe changed behavior on a loved one, provide a listening ear, create an atmosphere of trust that allows your family members and friends the opportunity to talk about their problems, encourage persons to seek mental care for persistent depression. Participants in today’s symposium were health care professionals, clergy and church workers, teachers and counselors, Urban Renewal and community workers and law enforcement officers. Facilitators included Dr. Tracey King, Barrington Brennen, Dr. Petra Forbes, Dr. John Dillet, Dr. Novia Carter and Dr. Michelle Bettin.
SRC will continue its Mental Health Education series with the following events in October:
10th – World Mental Health Day Speech Competition
19th – Caregivers Symposium
31st – Gambling Addiction Conference