ONE of the worst parts of depression is the feeling of isolation – that no one is there to help you, that no one feels the way you are feeling.
For those whose thoughts turn to suicide, that feeling can be even more acute, feeling that the world is against you and there’s no way out.
It’s not true. Simply saying that doesn’t help someone in the moment, but it’s not true. And now statistics from the Ministry of Health back that fact up.
According to their survey 17,000 Bahamians have seriously considered suicide in the past year. That’s 6.3 percent of adults, or about one in 15 people. As you go about your day’s business today, look around you and count. For every 15 people you see, one may have had such thoughts – may still be having them. That’s how many people in your life who are struggling to get through each day.
Looking at those statistics, those contemplating such actions are far from alone indeed. And yet still there is a stigma to admitting such feelings. A stigma that stops those in need from raising their voice and saying “I need help”. That stigma contributes more than anything else to those feelings of isolation. If you can’t ask for help when you need it, is it any wonder that the world seems closed to you? Indeed, given how The Tribune contacted the government’s national suicide hotline earlier this year only to find it out of service – with Health Minister Dr Duane Sands later saying the hotline was “not a budgetary priority or a problematic priority” – how could someone not feel sidelined and ignored?
It’s a situation that would seem ridiculous over a physical injury. If you have a broken arm, you go to hospital to get it fixed. Got the flu? Get a shot. Need an eye test? There’s the optician.
Yet somehow when it becomes a mental injury, a problem of the mind, some people judge those who need that helping hand, at the time they need it most.
It is a shocking number to see – 17,000 – but at the same time it is perhaps unsurprising.
With slightly under ten percent of the country’s working population unemployed, and with poverty having affected more, there are many trying hard to get by from day to day.
But they are not the only ones. Depression can strike anyone, no matter where they are in life, no matter whether rich or poor.
So let us make sure these statistics are not just filed away in a cabinet never to be talked about again. Let us make them the starting point of a conversation. Let us try to take away the stigma. Let us make it easier for those we love to reach out that hand and say “I need help”, knowing that their hand will be taken, and help will be given.
Where do we start? That’s a longer discussion – but this gives us a reason to begin. For all 17,000 of our brothers and sisters.
An opportunity for Bahamians
There was a visitor to The Tribune yesterday – the new High Commissioner to The Bahamas from Britain, Sarah Dickson.
Her presence may come in part from the UK’s need to reach out ahead of the looming Brexit deadline – which would see the UK leave the EU – but for The Bahamas it represents an opportunity.
One of the areas in which The Bahamas can take advantage is in scholarships – on page ten, two Bahamians are highlighted having received Chevening Scholarships to pursue master’s degrees.
That can be just the start, however, with issues of climate, environment – and indeed business all now having a UK representative close at hand to discuss such matters with.
There is never anything negative in building closer relationships with other nations – and the partnerships to go with them. We wish Mrs Dickson a happy time in her new post – and hope that Bahamians will keep her busy with opportunities to discuss.