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Jul 4, 2017

The plan to prevent rising suicide and depression

From 2012 to 2016, one hundred and thirteen persons died by their own hand, and three hundred and eighty-two others attempted to do so. There have been three more suicides through the first half of this year. Additionally, more than two thousand Belizeans were newly diagnosed with depressive disorders ranging from simple depression to bipolar disorder, the stage before a psychotic episode. The Ministry of Health has been actively trying to engage Belizeans on the topic and today sixty professionals from various sectors convened at the Belize Biltmore Plaza Hotel to work out plans for a national campaign against suicide and depression. Aaron Humes attended and files the following report.

 

Nurse Eleanor Bennett, Administrator, Mental Health Unit

Nurse Eleanor Bennett

“We are concerned when any person dies by suicide. We are certainly alarmed by the numbers; however, we are concerned about each and every one of these people that felt that they did not want to live anymore. And it’s a priority for us at the Mental Health Unit, at the Ministry of Health, because research tells us that suicide is one of the most preventable forms of death – people, many times would leave clues, there would be signs – it’s not just something that happened, as people like to say. There are always clues. And so we know that there are strategies that are effective  in preventing suicide, so what we have here today at this workshop are a group of sixty-plus stakeholders which are people who have various interests in suicide prevention and we have gathered them together to see if we can come up with a coordinated and integrated strategy to fight suicide.”

 

Aaron Humes, Reporting

And that fight, however worthy, is made more daunting by the prospect of the statistics compiled by the Ministry of Health. Of reported suicides over the last four years, an average of two per month, four in every five were completed by males. But females are twice as likely to attempt suicide. It is also noted that attempts are more common among teenagers and young adults; worryingly, however, successful suicides are mostly carried out by mature adults. Part of solving the problem, says the Ministry’s surveillance officer Nurse Lorna Perez, is understanding and analysing this data.

 

Nurse Lorna Perez, Surveillance Officer, Epidemiology Unit

Nurse Lorna Perez

“That is what the data is telling us and now we need to find out the why: why is this happening and the reason for looking at this data is to see who is affected, how they are affected and with what. So when you look at the methods that they use, the age groups that are affected, the sex of the person – these are the things that can guide the persons making decisions in addressing this issue, to use as a guide. When you look at the persons attempting, these are the younger population, mostly those fifteen to nineteen years of age; those completing suicide now, are those twenty to thirty-nine. However, as I mentioned, we cannot ignore those ten to fourteen years old and those sixty-five years and above; because these are the two extreme ages that we tend to ignore, and we really need to look at everybody that is being affected.”

 

Former Belize Mental Health Director Doctor Claudina Cayetano, who is now regional advisor for mental health with the Pan American Health Organization, outlined the expected outcomes of the two-day consultation.

 

Dr. Claudina Cayetano

Dr. Claudina Cayetano, Regional Advisor for Mental Health, PAHO

“No one should die by suicide. We are saying that suicide is a public health issue, a serious public health issue, and a serious public health issue which is preventable; so what are the actions that we can do to prevent suicide? One is way too many. So we want to be able to give people opportunity to find solutions for their problems rather than resort to suicide. So actions in terms of promotion, prevention, reducing stigma, creating public awareness, having people having more access to health care providers that are trained to support them to be able to do a diagnosis, do an assessment. And then you are talking about the means, access to means like poisoning – what are the regulations and how we could look at the gaps in terms of regulations for pesticide control board and the storage of the pesticide. Looking at all the little gaps that are there that would make it more easily accessible for people to drink poison rather than go to seek help.”

 

Aaron Humes reporting for News Five.

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