By RIEL MAJOR
Tribune Staff Reporter
IN the wake of the fifth suspected suicide of the year, mental health officials are calling for a functioning national suicide prevention hotline. Yesterday, The Tribune contacted the government’s national suicide hotline and discovered the number was out of service.
This newspaper then contacted the Department of Social Services’ hotline and was advised to contact Accident and Emergency at Princess Margaret Hospital or the Bahamas Crisis Centre.
This newspaper contacted the Bahamas Crisis Centre and was told the group does not handle suicide matters. The Tribune was then referred to the Community Counselling and Assessment Centre (CCAC) at Sandilands.
CCAC Clinical Psychologist Dr Tracey King said The Bahamas does not have a functioning national suicide prevention hotline.
Dr King said: “We don’t have a national suicide prevention hotline for someone to pick up the phone and say, ‘this is what is happening, what can I do, or can I talk to someone.’ I think we need a national helpline just because we see more and more persons trying to get help or trying to reach out or struggling.
“We do need a national suicide prevention hotline, but we also need to improve easier access to mental health services. When people call the hotline and you telling them to go to [a particular] area, it may be more challenging to them so we need a hotline, but we also need to make it easier for people to access mental health treatment.”
Dr King explained when a person is suicidal there are many factors that may lead them to suicide and there is not one specific way to help.
She explained: “One sign does not equal suicide, it’s a combination of all of these warning signs that persons really need to be aware of. Some will be the outright talking about death, wanting to kill themselves, you’ll see persons preparing for their death by giving away things or [preparing] funeral arrangements, making suicidal threats.
“Feelings of hopefulness, helplessness, feeling no hope for the future, isolation or feeling alone. You may see an increase in substance abuse, and people may be extremely different, not their typical self, maybe more irritable.”
The clinical psychologist said there are five main steps to help a person battling suicidal thoughts.
“One is asking the question because sometimes we may suspect it and we walk past the persons or we observe something that doesn’t seem right. That may be an indication of a suicidal warning sign. If you notice these things, ask the person, ‘are you ok and are you thinking of harming yourself?’
“Some persons will say if you ask that question that it’s going to put in their mind, but actually research has said that it doesn’t. It allows the person the opportunity to talk. . .A lot of persons who are suicidal feel alone and very isolated.
“The next one is to keep them safe because when we talk about suicide sometimes it’s kind of impulsive the person who has easy access are more than likely to be successful in their suicidal attempt so we want to make sure all means can be removed or the access to it removes itself. For example, people will remove pills or bleach, any type of tools that can be used for suicide.”
She added: “The other step is to be there. . . You want to make sure to be there and listen to them. You do an assessment of what is going on with the individual. A lot of people may think because they aren’t in the mental health field they can’t help someone who is suicidal but we all can help them get connected to help.”
Psychiatrist Dr David Allen said for the past 24 years, The Bahamas has been averaging seven suicides a year.
Dr Allen said: “What worries us is [we have] five already and we are only in May. The point is when homicides go down, suicides go up. When a person is deeply hurt the same energy, they can use to hurt somebody else they can also hurt themselves.
“As we clamp down on homicides, we have to build up the psyche of our nation so people can realise that life is worth it. You may find as we clamp down on [homicides] no one is clamping down on people hurting themselves.”
He added: “I thought there was [a suicide prevention hotline] and if not, we should [have one].”
Keva Bethell, director of research at The Family, People Helping People, said those in need of help can attend a free counselling group.
Ms Bethell said: “Our office is open Monday through Friday 9 to 5. Call (242)-698-0155 and we will get you connected to a counsellor or invite you to a group.”
Police said they were investigating an apparent suicide after a woman was discovered unresponsive inside a home with injuries to her body on Friday.
Police said shortly after 11am, officers were called to a residence on Falcon Crest, Eastern Estates, where a woman was discovered with visible injuries to her body.
She was pronounced dead, police said, adding that an autopsy is planned to determine the exact cause of death.
Those who may be having suicidal thoughts and think they might need help are asked to contact the Community Counselling and Assessment Centre at (242)-323-3293/5.