“Happy people don’t kill themselves”

Dr Kevin Goulbourne

Two hundred and forty Jamaicans attempted suicide in 2018, but experts are of the view that this number could be higher, as this is an area that is heavily under-reported.

According to the Economic and Social Survey, these 240 patients were seen in the accident and emergency units of public hospitals across the island. Listed under intentional injuries, 170 of those attempting suicide were females, compared with 70 males.

The youngest person to attempt suicide was in the five to nine age group, with the oldest coming from the 65 and over age bracket.

Acting director of mental health and substance abuse in the Ministry of Health and Wellness, Dr Kevin Goulbourne, said these incidents are sometimes missed due to a variety of reasons, including the fact that sometimes when victims of attempted suicide show up at hospitals it may not be recorded as such.

“We have a problem in the recording process, because sometimes in the reporting system, it doesn’t allow for that. Say, for example, a person came in with ingestion of too many tablets, it is seen as being a stomach problem. It is not being reported as a suicide attempt, just the injury of the person,” said Goulbourne, who was addressing journalists ahead of World Suicide Prevention Day, which is observed on September 10.

Founder and president of Choose Life International, Dr Donovan Thomas, stated that attempted suicide is always seen as a cry for help, as happy people don’t kill themselves.

“One young lady took an overdose and called our house one morning and spoke to my wife and said, ‘Aunty Faith, Aunty Faith, I just took an overdose and I changed my mind about killing myself’, so even people who attempt [suicide] have mixed feelings about dying. The idea is to be able to intercept them before they actually complete the act,” Thomas explained.

“One man came to me after he came out of the hospital with the rope marks still around his neck. One of the things I learn is that many people really don’t want to kill themselves, what they really want is to solve their problems and get rid of the pain.”

The suicidologist and author noted that one in four persons would have had some depressive symptoms at some point in their life.

We believe that happiness is the ultimate antidote to suicide, we believe that happy people don’t kill themselves or kill others, and we probably need a campaign that says make Jamaica happy again,” said Thomas.

“There are many of us who go around with hurts and pain and baggage. We watch a movie and start to cry, and we watch something and it brings up the unresolved issue in our lives. All of us need to be proactive in dealing with the unresolved issues in our lives. Work it through with a counsellor, with a friend, talk it through, get help so that when the tough times come, we are able to survive the storms of life.