By Dr KENNETH D KEMP
I’ve lived in three different countries and four different states and one of the many lessons I’ve learned throughout my travels is that the person who is quick to smile is the same person who is quick to cry. As diametrically opposed as the two may be, they remain two halves of the same coin.
The world is divided, in part, between the emotionally open - those who feel every pain and celebrate every victory to the fullest - and the emotionally closed who preserve their heart in solitude by erecting a wall so high nothing can penetrate. But quiet doesn’t necessarily mean peace and pain that is not transformed gets transmitted. I believe the emotionally closed to be the ones who suffer the most and many times they tragically do so in silence.
This was certainly the case for a 14-year-old male in the fall of 2017. He was bullied relentlessly online unbeknownst to his parents and younger sister. Over time he became quieter and more withdrawn but they chalked it up to typical teenage angst.
A particularly raw and demeaning post online pushed him into a deep depression. It was more than he could bear and he tried to kill himself by overdosing on a full bottle of over-the-counter pain meds. He was found seizing and foaming at the mouth. When transported to the hospital, his stomach was pumped and his life was saved.
The patient’s mother was advised that he should be admitted for observation but she insisted on taking him home. Both of his parents hugged him and decided that it was a long day so they’d let him sleep and talk to him in the morning. That night when everyone was asleep, he hung himself. Four years later the family is still in counselling and desperate to heal the hole missing in their heart. His mother blames herself and the guilt is crippling.
Talking to her this week she specifically wanted everyone to know her son was a great kid. From the day he was born she thought he could do anything he ever wanted and it was hard to reconcile the person she shared her body with for nine months ended up being so detached from her that she couldn’t see what was happening right before her eyes.
She works as a teacher and says she’s coping as best she can with the love and support of family and friends. Her message to everyone is to always listen and talk to your kids and connect with them on an emotional level. Look for simple clues, she stated, like them not wanting to do things that previously made then happy. It’s a lesson she’s had to learn in the most horrific way possible.
A lesser discussed component of this tragedy is that this kind of bullying has become increasingly easy to accomplish behind the comfort and security of a laptop far away from its intended target. Each key stroke launches bullets that tear apart not only the intended mark but also ricochets and victimizes their closest family members and loved ones, often to perpetuity.
According to the World Health Organization, more than 700,000 people die annually from suicide and it is the fourth leading cause of death in 15–19-year-olds. The number of suicides in The Bahamas went from eight (56 attempted) in 2019 to 11 (45 attempted) in 2020.
Speculation pervades that domestic abuse accounted for the increase but the vast majority of victims were men. A person who has taken their own life is a person who was drowning long before that but no one came to the rescue. Psychologists, psychiatrists and mental health specialists are best adept at illuminating who these individuals are and offering suitable treatment but unfortunately many don’t seek help from the appropriate entities.
Every single person has their own story and the whole purpose of The KDK Report is to showcase the stories that I hear in my office on a daily basis so others can make better, informed choices in their own lives. But stories involving kids are especially difficult for me.
I can’t imagine there being anything worse to experience but what I can extrapolate from this is to just be kind and teach your kids to be kind. Also don’t ignore your natural intuition and those inner voice whispers because it’s the universe telling you something is wrong. If you have kids or siblings, hug them extra-long the next time you see them, tell them you love them, spend time together and enjoy every moment.
The Department of Social Services provides a child abuse hotline and recently amalgamated service to include counselling to persons who may be depressed, overwhelmed or experiencing difficulties coping because of their current life challenges. Concerned persons may contact the national Hotline for Crisis Intervention at any time. The service is provided 24 hours daily and can be reached at (242) 322-2763 or 422-2763. Those who may be having suicidal thoughts and think they might need help are also asked to contact the Community Counselling and Assessment Centre at (242) 323-3293/5.
• Nick-named ‘The Prince of Podiatry’, Dr. Kenneth D. Kemp is the founder and medical director of Bahamas Foot and Ankle located in Caves Village, Western New Providence. He served as the Deputy chairman for the Health Council for five years and he currently sits on the board of directors for the Princess Margaret Hospital Foundation in his role as co-Vice-chairman.