Suicide is a subject that we, in
the Bahamas, do not talk much about. We are often judgmental, critical and
indifferent toward persons who are suicidal, very depressed or troubled. Many
persons in our country attempt suicide each year and many of those succeed.
One does not have to be
"crazy" to think about suicide. Most times we think
that if someone killed herself, she must have been "crazy" to do so. Some mental
health professional indicate that most people who kill themselves are not mentally ill.
They mean that there is not history of long-term depression or
any psychological disorder. Most of them are just normal people who for some reason decided that life was
just not worth living anymore. Other professionals say the a suicidal person is
mentally ill. On the other hand one statistic report in
the United States (2004) indicates that "more than 90 percent of
people who kill themselves have a diagnosable mental disorder,
most commonly a depressive disorder or a substance abuse
It is important to understand that most people
who attempt or complete suicide are so sad, hopeless or angry that they simply
canít stand it anymore. Paul G. Quinnett says in his book, "Suicide,
the Forever Decision," that people who are suicidal "have been
dealt such a terrible blow by life that they are overwhelmed and can see no
other way to end the feeling of loss and loss of control over their future. But
they are not crazy. And, most likely, neither are you."
Many view suicide as they do cancer and AIDS. They act as though it will
always be the other person and not themselves. However, over a period of bad
crisis management, continually being put down by others, low self esteem,
constant failure or serious loss, the thought can come your way.
Unfortunately, many Bahamians are on a slow road to suicide, and they know
it. Since they think there is no one to love them, they get into drugs and a
destructive lifestyle that knowingly could lead to death. Some canít see life
beyond forty, so they deliberately set themselves on a course to fulfill the
mission ó the slow road to suicide. Since nobody cares and understands them,
they wallow in a life of low self esteem, sex, and drugs.
Here is what Dr.
Thomas Joiner, leading expert in suicide studies states
about most recent theories about the different types and
different motivations for suicide (2012):
The result of
a mental illness (e.g. dysfunctional behavior, clinical
The result of
reckless behavior (e.g. substance abuse, dangerous or
life threatening activities)
physical and/or emotional pain (e.g. inability to cope,
situational or episodic despair, relief from suffering,
guilt, shame or loss, physical pain or debilitating
To send a
message or obtain an outcome (defiance, notoriety,
vengeance, leave a legacy or aftermath)
heroic act (relieving others of burden, to save another,
to die for a cause)
As a rite of
passage (to express manhood/maturity, to make a
religious journey, sacrifice to a god)
oneís right to choose (creative expression, considered
choice, the right of an artist)
interest in the means/location.
Based on these
motivations for suicide it is clear to me that although most
who commit suicide have a mental illness (even if it is not
for a very long period), yet some do commit suicide who do
not have a history of mental illness and may not be
long-term clinically depressed or have any other
psychological disorder (Brennen).
What are the warning signs of suicide? Sometimes the person uses direct
statements such as: " I want to die, " or "I donít want to live
any more." There can be indirect statements such as: "I want to go to
sleep and never wake up," or "Theyíll be sorry when Iím,
gone," or "Soon this pain will be over."
The behavioral signs of suicide can be any of the following:
1) Sadness and
2) Lack of energy.
3) Increase or decrease in sleeping patterns.
Increase or decrease in appetite.
5) Inability to concentrate or make decisions.
7) Angry and destructive or boisterous behavior.
from usual social activities, loneliness.
9) Drop in grades. Inability to
complete assignments or pay attention in class.
10) Giving away possessions.
Making final arrangements - will, insurance, funeral.
12) Increase risk taking;
for example, driving a car recklessly.
13) A previous suicide attempt.
Increased use of drugs and alcohol.
15) Neglecting personal hygiene and
16) Recurring themes of death and self-destruction in poetry
composition, writing assignments or art work.
17) Change in sexual behavior.
The situational signs of suicide can be any of the following:
1) Loss of
2) Difficulty communicating with parents.
with school or employment.
4) Trouble with the law.
5) Unwanted pregnancy.
Serious physical illness.
7) Mental illness.
8) Family disruption (unemployment,
How can you help someone who is suicidal? Here are a few interventions:
far as possible seek professional help. Call a doctor, counselor, or take the
person to the hospital.
2) Make sure you learn the warning signs.
available. Show interest and support.
4) Be willing to listen. Allow expressions
of feelings. Reflect feelings accurately.
5) Offer empathy, not sympathy.
nonjudgmental, even if you feel strongly that suicide is morally wrong.
direct. Ask them openly if they are thinking of suicide. Discuss the idea
directly and honestly.
8) If they say they are thinking of suicide, ask them the
"Do you have a plan?" If yes, ask how, with what,
where, and when? (Remember talking about suicide does not cause it).
"Can you act on the plan now? Are the means available?"
you attempted suicide before?" If yes, when, how, with what, and where.
"Why now? What problem is your suicide designed to solve?"
whom have you tried to talk about this besides me? Did they listen? Who can be
supportive to you right now when youíre in so much pain?
felt depressed and down before, what kinds of things helped you feel
better?" "Would they help now?"
choose suicide, there are no other options open to you. The decision can never
be reversed. Iím wondering if things are so confusing for you right now that
it might not be a good time to make a permanent life/death decision right."
Offer hope that alternatives are available. Let them know you care what
happens to them. Say something like, "I care what happens to you very much.
"I donít want you to die!"
Take action. If they are in pain, do
not leave them alone. If possible remove the means.
It is important that when dealing with someone who is thinking about suicide
1) You donít minimize the problem.
2) You donít try to argue them out
3) You donít tell them "they will feel better tomorrow."
You donít debate whether suicide is right or wrong, or whether their feelings
are good or bad. You donít lecture on the value of life.
5) You donít ask
why. This encourages defensiveness.
6) You donít use reverse psychology. You
donít tell them to "go ahead and do it" as a way to trick them out
7) Never promise to keep the suicide attempt a secret.
There are many things we can say that can be roadblocks to communication when
someone is suicidal. Here are a few:
1) "Thatís not a reason to kill
2) "You shouldnít talk like that."
3) "You will
feel different tomorrow."
4) "Just forget about it."
donít mean that."
6) "It would kill your mother. How could you do
that to her?"
7) "Suicide is a sin. It is morally wrong."
"Things canít be that bad." "LifeĎs tough. Quit moping
Remember, a person who is thinking about suicide is asking for
help and is in need of love and understanding. Give it to them.