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By Barrington H. Brennen, MA, NCP, BCCP, JP
1999, Updated 2013, and January 2021


ďSuicide is not an act of weakness; and people who die by suicide are not weak.Ē These are the words of  Kevin Caruso, a suicide survivor and the founder of www.suicide.org  website.   Suicide is often misunderstood.   Many who have never attempted suicide or had suicidal ideations, think that they are better and stronger emotionally that those who do attempt or commit suicide.  It is imperative that we understand the suicide is not about weakness or stupidity.  One does not have to be emotionally weak or "crazy" to think about suicide.   This is a notion that must be purged from the fabric of our society. 


Suicide is not about weakness, strength, courage or stamina. 
It is about despair, distress and hopelessness. 
Literally anyone, the strong and the weak, can reach that point.


Most times we think that if someone killed herself, she must have been "crazy" to do so. Many mental health professionals indicate that most people who kill themselves are not mentally ill. They have no 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 that 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 disorder." 

Simply put, most people who attempt or died by suicide are so sad, hopeless or angry that they simply cannot stand it anymore. Note also that suicide is no respecter of persons. Suicide has no color, race, language, or ethnicity.  Blacks, Caucasians, Asians, Hispanics, rich, poor, university professors, political leaders, carpenters, parents, military officers, farmers, etcóhave either thought about or committed suicide. 


Sadly, many who attempt suicide are so shameful and in emotional pain, that they often do not tell anyone about it.  It is a secret they take to their graves.   I've met a female in her late teens, who attempted suicide seventeen times.  Not even her parents new about the suicide attempts.   I've met another who attempted suicide nine times.


Many persons who are having suicidal ideations and are intentional about taking their lives, will find any window of opportunity to commit suicide, even when on a twenty-four-hour suicidal watch.  It makes it very difficult to treat or manger even for the most experienced mental health professionals.

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."  In other words, suicide is not about weakness.  It is about hopelessness, despair, reaching the end of the rope, etc. That can happen to ďthe strongest of us.Ē   In his article entitled "Why people die by suicide,"  Dr. Thomas Joiner, proposes three factors that mark those most at risk of death: "the feeling of being a burden on loved ones; the sense of isolation; and the learned ability to hurt oneself."


Many view suicides 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 trauma in oneís life, bad crisis management, continually being put down by others, low self-esteem, constant failure or serious loss, the thought can come your way.


Another point of view is that some 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 depression, schizophrenia

  • The result of reckless behavior (e.g. substance abuse, dangerous or life threatening activities)

  • To end 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 illness)

  • To send a message or obtain an outcome (defiance, notoriety, vengeance, leave a legacy or aftermath)

  • Altruistic or 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)

  • To express oneís right to choose (creative expression, considered choice, the right of an artist)

  • Symbolic 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 a few do commit suicide who do not have a history of long mental illness and may not be long-term clinically depressed or have any other psychological disorder.

On the other hand, the common trend with most suicides is that of depression.  Psychologist Nancy Schimelpfening in the article ďCan Depression Be Life-Threatening?Ē (October 2020) states: ďThough many people with depression lead fulfilling lives and often find treatment plans that work for them, it's important to be aware of the fatalities that do occur in those who have suffered from this mental health condition. One of the main ways that depression might lead to death is if the negative symptoms result in a person deciding to take their own life. . . Depression can make people feel helpless and without hope, causing them to reach the unfortunate conclusion that suicide is the only way to end their misery.Ē

What is needed by all in our society is compassion and understanding.  We must remove the stigma and ill treatment of those with suicidal thoughts, depression, mental illness, or a disability.  We also need to ask the government to remove suicide from the list of criminal offences like the Cayman islands and Belize.  Let us do our best to change the narrative about suicide in our lovely country.  Suicide is not a respecter of persons.



Below is helping information I gathered from several sources
to help you understand and respond to someone with suicidal ideations.


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  (WebMD):

1) Sadness and crying.

2) Lack of energy.

3) Increase or decrease in sleeping patterns.

4) Increase or decrease in appetite.

5) Inability to concentrate or make decisions.

6) Confusion.

7) Angry and destructive or boisterous behavior.

8) Withdrawal from usual social activities, loneliness.

9) Drop in grades. Inability to complete assignments or pay attention in class.

10) Giving away possessions.

11) Making final arrangements - will, insurance, funeral.

12) Increase risk taking; for example, driving a car recklessly.

13) A previous suicide attempt.

14) Increased use of drugs and alcohol.

15) Neglecting personal hygiene and appearance.

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 (HealthLine):

1) Loss of significant relationship.

2) Difficulty communicating with parents.

3) Problems with school or employment.

4) Trouble with the law.

5) Unwanted pregnancy.

6) Serious physical illness.

7) Mental illness.

8) Family disruption (unemployment, separation).

How can you help someone who is suicidal? Here are a few interventions (Mayo Clinic):

1) As 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.

3) Be available. Show interest and support.

4) Be willing to listen. Allow expressions of feelings. Reflect feelings accurately.

5) Offer empathy, not sympathy.

6) Be nonjudgmental, even if you feel strongly that suicide is morally wrong.

7) Be 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 following:

  • "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?"

  • "Have you attempted suicide before?" If yes, when, how, with what, and where.

  • "Why now? What problem is your suicide designed to solve?"

  • With 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?

  • "When you felt depressed and down before, what kinds of things helped you feel better?" "Would they help now?"

  • If you 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 that:

1) You donít minimize the problem.

2) You donít try to argue them out of it.

3) You donít tell them "they will feel better tomorrow."

4) 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 of it.

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 yourself."

2) "You shouldnít talk like that."

3) "You will feel different tomorrow."

4) "Just forget about it."

5) "You 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."

8) "Things canít be that bad." "LifeĎs tough. Quit moping around."

Remember, a person who is thinking about suicide is asking for help and is in need of love and understanding. Give it to them.  What is needed by all in our society is compassion and understanding.  We must remove the stigma and ill treatment of those with suicidal thoughts, depression, mental illness, or a disability.  We also need to ask the government to remove suicide from the list of criminal offences like the Cayman islands and Belize.  Let us do our best to change the narrative about suicide in our lovely country.  Suicide is not a respecter of persons.




Barrington Brennen is a marriage and family therapist.   Send your comments or questions to question@soencouragement.org Or Call 1242 327-1980, / 242 477 4002 (Cell and WhatsApp)   P.O. Box CB-13019, Nassau, The Bahamas


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April 26, 2000, TAGnet/NetAserve / Network Solutions

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