Wednesday 18 September, 2019

Suicide a public health issue, President says

File photo.

File photo.

With the third-highest rate of suicide in the region, Trinidad and Tobago must prioritise the implementation of suicide prevention strategies, and allocate additional support to those who have been impacted by suicide.

That’s according to President Paula Mae Weekes, who noted that there was a dire need for an improvement in data collection and surveillance systems for self-harm and suicide attempts.

President Weekes in a message on the occasion of World Suicide Prevention Day said despite the ongoing work by the Ministry of Health to develop a National Suicide Prevention Strategy, more resources are needed to provide adequate support to those directly and profoundly affected by suicide.

“Suicide is a matter of public health and it is therefore imperative that we have frank, meaningful conversations about suicide on an individual, community and national level.”

The President noted that at the International Association for Suicide Prevention’s (IASP) third Caribbean Regional Symposium held in Trinidad and Tobago, it was revealed that while 80 percent of suicides occur in low and middle-income countries, only three percent of the research takes place there.

The IASP estimates that for each suicide, approximately 135 people suffer intense grief or are otherwise affected.

She said education is key in treating with and preventing suicide, noting the role media play.

“We can educate ourselves, raise awareness on the risk factors and warning signs for suicide and show compassion to those affected by suicidal behaviour.

The media is a key player in suicide prevention as the way in which suicides are reported can either encourage or discourage people who are contemplating suicide.”

She advised reporters ensure that established Guidelines for Reporting on Suicide is put to use to help reduce suicides, in particular, of the copycat variety.

The Guidelines recommend the use of non-sensational language, which advises people to seek help from local resources and includes a message of hope at the end of the report.

“On World Suicide Prevention Day, by Working Together to Prevent Suicide, we can effectively tackle and overcome the challenges of suicidal behaviour in our nation and the world,” the President concluded.

According to the World Health Organisation, over 800,000 people die by suicide every year.

Suicide disproportionately affects young people and is the second leading cause of death among 15 to 29-year-olds globally.

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