Suicide Hotline ‘Not A Priority’

HEALTH Minister Dr Duane Sands.

HEALTH Minister Dr Duane Sands.


Tribune Staff Reporter


THE Bahamas has experienced what appears to be an abnormally high suicide rate so far in 2019.

However, Health Minister Dr Duane Sands said yesterday he is uncertain if a suicide hotline is effective in reducing such incidents. Still, he noted his ministry has budgeted a dramatic increase in funding for mental health services in the upcoming fiscal year. 

With seven months left in the year, there has 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 five 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.

In an interview with The Tribune, Dr Sands said the budget process isn’t complete yet, but the ministry has prioritised certain things and now is waiting to see what the budgetary allocations will be.

“...Then we will have to reprioritise depending on what that final number is. Certainly, a suicide hotline was not a budgetary priority or a problematic priority. Not that I’m being stubborn, but I believe we can use scarce resources more effectively. 

“Our big problem is that we have stigmatisation of mental illnesses. We talk about the ‘Crazy Hill’. Oh I don’t want to go to Sandilands (Rehabilitation Centre) …I’m not going to see no psychiatrist.’ There is where our emphasis needs to be, it’s on removing the stigma that prevents people from getting much needed help.” 

Dr Sands said the country needs to shake off the stigma that getting help for mental health issues is a sign of weakness. 

“As you talk with people who have family members battling depression, schizophrenia, anxiety disorder and so on and so forth, this is one of the most least supportive countries in the world. We look at our major medical insurances they don’t have much coverage for psychiatric disorders; major medical plans.

“…If you look at community psychiatry options, community psychology options available to public patients, (it’s) limited very limited. That’s where our emphasis is and that’s one of the reasons why we sought to renew the mental health tribunal so they can now start looking at these kinds of issues to adjust the approach for persons with mental health challenges.”

When asked if he thought the Bahamas needed a dedicated suicide hotline, Dr Sands said: “Now you have a hotline, now what? You got people employed 24 hours a day covering this hotline seven days a week and then you ask the question ‘did it make a difference’ and some will say at least you had it, you did something. Well (there’s) no point doing something that won’t work. 

“Maybe the investments ought to be on a public education campaign or further mental health strengthening to get people to recognise the signs and symptoms of depression, educate the public that this is not about not being strong enough and you’re not a weak person because you’re depressed. There are so many other things that are necessary to strengthen the support for persons with mental health challenges.”

He added: “If we had a more sophisticated network of support services for depressed people or people who are potentially suicidal then I would say fine that’s the next step but we have other steps we have to take that we haven’t taken yet that would probably be more effective.”

Last week, 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. 

Last month 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 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.

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.


bogart 1 year ago

Da.....SOCIAL ILLS RISING....POVERTY RISING..VAT CRUELLY PUNISHING ....UNEMPLOYMENT ....PORE PEOPLE PARENTS OF CHILLRENS.......EASE DA TENSION....HOPELESSNESS.....VICTMIZATIONS....SUFFERING......MISERY.....ANGER....FRUSTRATIONS.....RICH AN POOR GAP WIDENS..........WHY NOT GET SOME..... BONA FIDE CHRISTIAN ENTITIES.....CHURCHES......PUTS TOGETHER A .....VOLUNTEER BUREAU OF BONA FIDE MEMBERS TO ......UNDERGO TRAINING PROGRAMS BY GUBBERMINT AND HAVE GOVT CARRIER BATELCO .....PROVIDE HOTLINE........????????....dere are plenty pore struggling class who unlike rich to pay therapist......an many pore class at bottom can find bonafide volunteers an training to run da suicide prevention program.......


geostorm 1 year ago

Yes, we really need to focus on mental health and removing the stigma associated with it.

Last week, 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

Rest in peace Mrs. Adderley, what a blow to those whose lives she touched!


TalRussell 1 year ago

Calling out name Joseph, the father Jesus to rebukes any human being associated ministry health - or how could any Imperial red shirts elected, or politically appointed, colleagues of the minister, not on this day be hanging their heads - feeling all embarrassed over their colleague not feeling any same nor embarrassment of the uttering that Suicide Hotline is not a priority for concern Colony of Out Islands crown appointed Imperial cabinet ministers - how he is uncertain if a suicide hotline is effective in reducing such incidents, yes, no - sinfully of devil's making when only thing missing from confused head minister are any visible signs red devil's horns, yes, no?


Clamshell 1 year ago

It would help if The Tribune quit treating suicides like a news event. Unless the person takes their own life in a dramatic way in a public setting, it is a private matter. Why embarrass the family who are already dealing with this tragedy?

In civilized countries, the news media do not report suicides like news events, unless, as stated, the suicide occurs in some public venue and cannot be ignored.

Please, Tribune ... grow up, get professional.


John 1 year ago

A suicide hotline is not a priority in light of increased suicides? Well motor bike! Like is is such a vast expense. All one needs is some volunteer pastors who are trained counselors. Give them cell phones and pay the bills (. Maybe even the two phone companies will sponsor the phones and service). And give them a monthly stipend.


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