IN the time of deepest despair, it appears we are leaving our friends, families and colleagues with no one to turn to. When The Tribune tried to contact the national suicide hotline yesterday, there was no help to be found. The number was out of service.
Imagine being in that darkest hour, and summoning up the ability to pick up a phone, to reach out to say yes, I need some help – only to find the so-called hotline is very cold indeed.
Seeking help elsewhere seems to be a fruitless game of pass the parcel – a call to the Bahamas Crisis Centre prompted a response that they don’t handle suicide matters, and referred us to the A&E department at the hospital or the Community Counselling and Assessment Centre (CCAC). Over at CCAC, psychologist Dr Tracey King confirmed there was no such hotline working.
There are many causes behind suicide – as Dr Mike Neville wrote in The Tribune in 2017: “Suicide doesn’t kill people, sadness kills people”.
Throughout our country, we have people who face such sadness every day, alongside mental illness, struggles against poverty and many more issues.
There is a stigma too about suicide that sadly has not yet been lifted. It is still illegal to commit suicide, attempt suicide or to abet the commission of suicide, while the Church has historically held stern views – still some pastors would choose excommunication for suicide or attempted suicide.
In truth, a suicide hotline is one of the last resorts we need in trying to tackle suicide. There is so much more before someone gets to that stage that can be done. As Dr King at CCAC said: “We also need to make it easier for people to access mental health treatment.”
Look around our streets and you’ll see many people who don’t have that access. The homeless, the desperate we see trying to get by through the day but who are paid attention to by too few. They have fewer options for finding their way out of their situation.
It is far from just on the streets that people have problems though – and depression and mental illness can affect any of us. There are things we can do ourselves. We can reach out to the neighbour we haven’t seen in a while. We can call the friend we haven’t spoken to. We can stay in touch, and we can listen when someone wants to talk.
Over at The Family organisation, director of research Keva Bethell says anyone in need of help can call 242-698-0155 and they will connect you to a counsellor. That is invaluable – but the hours are Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm, and there are too many hours there where someone will be in need.
Other nations have these as standard – over in the UK, The Samaritans organisation fills the role, providing an ear and advice whenever needed.
A nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its members most in need. The absence of a simple hotline to help those in the greatest need of all speaks poorly for our nation. We would hope Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis would instruct the creation of one without delay.
There have been five suspected suicides this year. We don’t want anyone else to be left without someone to talk to. In that moment of despair, let us make sure someone is there. After all, it could be any one of us who needs to make that call.