Minister of Health Dr Duane Sands.
By RIEL MAJOR
Tribune Staff Reporter
IN the wake of the sixth suspected suicide of the year, Health Minister Dr Duane Sands said the challenges surrounding mental health and depression is “very real”.
Speaking to reporters at Cabinet, Dr Sands said Bahamians don’t take suicide seriously and trivialise the challenges of mental health.
“Suicide is increasing around the world including The Bahamas perhaps,” said. “And I say it that way because when we look at our numbers, the numbers have been low year after year after year so, to determine whether or not the number of suicides that we have had, let’s say in the last six months, is statistically significantly different than the norm, requires a statistical review.
“To just say, well we had two last year and three this year, whatever the numbers are statistically may be an invalid assessment. But make no bones about it we have a challenge with mental illness in The Bahamas.”
With just over five months left in the year, there have already been more suicides this year than the yearly total for any of the past seven years, according to The Tribune’s records.
Police suspect six people have committed suicide this year.
Since 2008, there have only been two years that more suicides have been recorded in an entire year: 2012 and 2010, according to this newspaper’s analysis.
From 2008 to 2018, the country averaged a rate of three suicides a year.
The health minister said people show support and concern to other illness but tend to shun mental illnesses.
He said: “We tend to dismiss it; we tend to shame or blame the victims of mental illness. We still believe that mental illness and I’m speaking generally now is a sign of weakness or it’s a sign that you’re not connected to Jesus or that you’re just not strong enough.
“If people would of break a leg, if people would of get cancer, if people would of get high blood pressure or diabetes there is a tremendous outpouring of support and concern. But if you suffer from a major mental illness then often times you are greeted with scorn, ridicule, contempt and embarrassment.”
Dr Sands said many people are ashamed to seek help from the Sandilands Rehabilitative Centre.
“That is a very unfortunate reality because many of these problems can be controlled if not completely eliminated with appropriate therapy whether that’s pharmaceutical therapy, talk therapy or other modalities,” he said.
“I think that this one of the very important conversations that we should have as a people to not be dismissive, to recognise there are people around that are suffering.”
Earlier this week, police were investigating an apparent suicide after a teen boy was found, unconscious, hanging in a closet.
In May, police said they were investigating an apparent suicide after a woman was discovered unresponsive with injuries to her body in a residence on Falcon Crest, Eastern Estates.
In April, a man was found hanging from a beam in a closet of a residence on Haven Street off Lightbourn Street in Chippingham. A family member found the man, said to be in his mid-50s, unresponsive.
In March, two people allegedly committed suicide in separate incidents: a man at a Winton Estates residence and a woman at a residence on Paradise Island. The man, 41-year-old Dimaggio Darrell, was a father of four.
In February, a man was found with what police believed was a self-inflicted gunshot wound to his upper body at an apartment in Kennedy Subdivision.