Suicide in Trinidad and Tobago

Suicide. Or according to some Trinis Soo…. SIDE.

Some people think that Talking about suicide is a bad idea and can be interpreted as encouragement. Yeah. For some people, talking about suicide is like talking about sex education, teenage pregnancy or colm imbert. They rather not. But we need to Talk. Not about Colm Imbert. About suicide.

Because factors like depression and mental health issues are real.
And suicides can be prevented.

Growing up I thought someone had to be crazy or stupid to kill themselves. I thought people who attempted suicide were looking for attention. I thought only men killed themselves. Indian men. If an African man did it there was only one explaination: he had Indian in him. I thought people who drank Gramaxone did it because they had grass in their belly.

Then I grew up. And Life was suddenly more challenging.

On two occasions I’ve thought about suicide. Once in 2010. And once in… Kim, what year we get married again?

In Trinidad, sui­cide and at­tempt­ed sui­cide are crim­i­nal of­fences.
So is murder. And naked children. And washing cars in public. And smoking weed. But that isn’t stopping anyone.

The intentional killing of oneself is evidence of two things. personal breakdown and the deterioration of the society. Suicide is more likely to occur during periods of crisis. Because of this suicide is used as an indicator of the mental health status of a population.

In the Caribbean, Trinidad and Tobago has the third highest suicide rate. Guyana, the land of chicken curry, is first on the list.

In 2018, when it came to suicide, Trinidad ranked 36th highest nation in the world. 14.6 suicides for every 100,000 people.

A deteriorated society puts people at risk of increased suicide. Pause for a second and consider Trinidad.

There’s violence, divorce, bullying, health problems, teenage pregnancy, inappropriate media reporting, the harmful use of alcohol, financial problems, depression, horn, poor SEA results..

Be­tween 2005 and 2012, approximately 727 peo­ple of­fi­cial­ly died by sui­cide. That’s roughly 100 people every year.

One research paper lists 667 victims of suicide from 2013 to 2016. For every suicide, 20 attempts have been made.

Every year, at each regional health authority in Trinidad and Tobago, there are 1,000 admissions related to self-harm or suicide.

In Trinidad (and Tobago) there 5 regional health authorities. So that’s 5,000 self-harm and suicide-related admissions.

Suicide does not have one particular cause.
And it doesn’t affect one particular race.
It’s an individual thing.

There are warning signs you should know. The warning signs fall into three categories: Physical, Conversational and Behavioural such as:

Disinterest in appearance, uncontrolled anger, frequent conversations about death and suicide, self-harming, the desire for revenge, acting reckless or engaging in risky activities – seemingly without thinking, feeling trapped , increased alcohol or drug use, anxiety, agitation, insomnia.

If someone is talking about being dead, or how much their own death would make people happy there’s a high probability that person is contemplating suicide.

Extreme moods swings

  • If someone goes from depressed to suddenly ok or happy that could be a indication that the person has found a solution in suicide.
  • Suicide doesn’t discriminate by age, gender or geographic location.
  • In 2007, a global school survey revealed that 21% of females and 14% of males had seriously considered suicide.17% had a definite plan.
  • Of the 667 suicides from 2013 to 2016:
  • 79% of the victims were male.
  • Based on the same research, Indians or Indo-Trinidadians are more likely to commit suicide. They accounted for 65% of victims. That doesn’t mean that Afro-Trinidadians are safe. Afro-Trinidadians are three more times likely to be killed in a homicide.
  • 34 % of the deaths occurred in South West Trinidad.

Let’s talk about Gramaxone, or according to some Trinis “Gramoxone”.

From 2013 to 2016, More than 70 percent of suicides were due to drinking pesticides or other poisons.

Globally the World Health Organisation has talked about safer access to pesticides and weedicides like Gramaxone. Safer access can reduce impulsive suicides.

Locally, experts have called for stronger regulation or an outright ban. A 1997 study showed that of 105 deaths almost 80 per cent of deaths were due to paraquat or Gramoxone.

Which makes sense because, In Trinidad, buying poison it as easy as buying rope

In 2018, the question of banning gramaxone came up in Parliament.

The question is, though, if poisons are banned would suicides decrease? Because in recent times suicide by hanging and the use of firearms have increased. Certainly banning the sale of rope isn’t feasible

Media Houses also have an important role when reporting suicide.
Because research links media coverage of suicide and increases in suicidal behaviour.
copycat suicides are a real thing.
On the Ministry of Health’s website journalists can find 11 best practices for responsible suicide reporting.

For example:

  • describing details about the method or location are a no-no.
  • So is including words, photographs or videos that may be painful to loved ones.
  • Never say a method is quick, easy, painless or certain to result in death.
  • Avoid referring to a person as suicidal or mentally ill
  • Above all, end with a message of hope.

The scary thing is that all the media houses in Trinidad and Tobago at one time or another, are guilty of irresponsible reporting.

When it comes to suicide, the answers do not lie exclusively with the government or media houses.

You and I also have an important role.
To look out for one another.
To ask a question if you recognise worrisome physical, conversational and behavioural signs in a loved one or a co-worker or a stranger.

  • Ask. And listen. Because listening saves lives.
  • Let the person contemplating suicide talk.
  • Be patient.
  • Don’t be judgemental.
  • Put down your phone.

Do not argue with a person contemplating suicide. Avoid saying things like:

  • you have so much to live for;
  • look on the bright side;
  • Great is the PNM.

If you’re having dark thoughts and feel all alone, services like Lifeline can help. Lifeline is a confidential service that befriends the despairing and suicidal. They listen 24 hours, every day. (Wow a service that listens 24/7. My wife will love that.)

If you need help, call 800-5588, 231-2824. 220-3636.
If your don’t have any money in your phone, that’s okay.
The service is free.

About Lifeline

Lifeline’s main aim is to be available 24 hours every day to people passing through a crisis and in imminent danger of taking their own life.

This requires funding. Lifeline earns no money and generally their work is the last and least funded because it concentrates on perpetrators of violence.

If you’re interested in becoming a volunteer or donating to the work they do please visit their website at lifelinett.com.

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