While suicide continues to be a difficult topic to discuss, it is far too important for us to ignore or to stigmatise in this society. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), suicide prevention continues to be a universal challenge, as suicide annually falls in the top 20 causes of death globally.
Where does Trinidad and Tobago fall on this spectrum?
Between January 2020 and August 2020, we have already lost 74 people to suicide. It should be noted that 80 per cent of this figure were boys/men, compared to female figures which seem to be much lower.
There has been a steady increase in male suicide rates, both locally and globally.
Though mental illness continues to be the leading factor of suicidal distress, other contributing elements include psychological, environmental and social factors. These factors vary based on age, gender, culture, family dynamics and traumatising life events, to name a few.
While several people may encounter suicidal distress, many may not commit suicide, as it is difficult to predict when an individual will die by suicide. However, there are possible warning signs, and these include changes in personality, behaviour, sleeping habits, eating, low self-esteem and repetitive talk about dying.
Despite the statistics presented above, suicide is preventable through therapy, treatment and education. For schools, school-based suicide prevention programmes have been the leading preventive measures against suicide, and many studies show a reduction in self-reported suicide attempts.
These programmes increase awareness of suicide, and educate teachers and pupils to identify the warning signs of suicidal distress in family members, colleagues and classmates.
They also reinforce the notion that a critical step in reducing suicide is to get immediate treatment for those with suicidal ideation.
Therapy continues to be one of the most widespread preventive measures for suicide prevention. Convincing evidence shows that individuals have found relief from suicidal distress after a few sessions of therapy and seem to thrive better. Often, therapy coincides with evidence-based treatment plans tailored to the individual’s specific needs.
Suicide is preventable and, collectively, these measures provide effective treatments for suicide prevention. We must implement these measures nationwide to assist those with suicidal distress, and normalise the conversation around mental health, contributing to a societal change in the way that suicide and suicide ideation are perceived.
Educational psychologist member, T&T Association of Psychologists