Is it not time that a national investigation be undertaken to uncover why so many people, particularly young men are taking their own lives in this country? We say yes, and it must be done with haste.
This country is notoriously infamous for its lack of current statistics and data on a range of social and even economic issues, and it is becoming critical to address this absolute failure on the part of authorities.
Now if the statistics are being maintained by a single agency and not shared with the citizens of Barbados, then that is an equally unhelpful state of affairs.
Over the weekend, we were given the sad news that police were investigating another suspected case of suicide. It involved a young man, Karlos Yearwood. The 29-year-old West Terrace, St James resident was found dead at his home.
And like many of the cases of suspected suicide in recent years the deceased are described as people with “so much potential”. Yearwood was a former Mr Barbados Caribbean Pageant winner and the first-runner up in the Mr Barbados to Mr Caribbean GQ competition.
With no word from those close to him as to why he may have chosen to end his life, as a society we have to ask ourselves what has gone wrong. Barbados is touted as one of the greatest places in the world to live, work and play, but for some of our citizens, life is difficult and too many seem unable to cope.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been linked to a deterioration in the mental health status of most demographics, but it has been particularly debilitating for our young people.
Our policy makers should be hosting information sessions that confirm or dismiss the perception that more Barbadians, especially our young people, are choosing to end their own lives rather than find sustainable solutions or to seek help from professionals who can guide them.
According to the publication Frontiers in Psychiatry some of the key risk factors found in a study of youth suicide included mental disorders, previous suicide attempts, specific personality characteristics, genetic loading and family processes in combination with triggering psychosocial stressors, exposure to inspiring models and availability of means of committing suicide.
Globally, many more men die from suicide than women, though suicide attempts are said to be ten times more than those who succeed in self-termination.
The study, which was edited by academics from the University of Zurich, Switzerland and can be regarded as relevant to our situation in Barbados, said suicides were linked to mental health disorders, with depression being the most prevalent.
“Mental disorders are found to contribute between 47 and 74 per cent of suicide risk. . . Criteria for depression were found in 50 to 65 per cent of suicide cases, more often among females than males. Substance abuse, and more specifically alcohol misuse, is also strongly associated with suicide risk, especially in older adolescents and males. Among 30–40 per cent of people who die by suicide had personality disorders, such as borderline or antisocial personality disorder.”
Situations such as these are troublesome for us because unless people are prepared to seek professional help, they may never be reached before they take such drastic actions.
With such hysteria and stigmatism displayed by too many Barbadians around the issue of mental health disorders, the problem of suicides becomes even more challenging to address.
Added to the difficulty in addressing this social and medical issue, experts say though the suicidal process can take weeks, months or even years to go from idea to carrying out the act, suicide often occurs unexpectedly and impulsively, especially with young people who find it difficult to manage strong emotions and mood swings.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us that there is a fine line between mental stability and instability, and that depression is real.
One of our local psychiatric specialists Dr Joy Sue told this publication how important it is for us to accept that there are times when we will have no control over situations that we face.
“As much as we would like to think that we are in control of all aspects of our lives, the truth is that even before COVID-19, we were not.
“If you have a rigid idea in your head that a particular thing must happen by a particular time, when it does not occur, you are more likely to experience anxiety. However, if you are more flexible and say to yourself, ‘I would like it to happen, but I know that things may occur that might delay it; you can plan for that.”
This is advice that we recommend to all, and it may serve to insulate us from thoughts that death is the only option on the table when situations become overwhelming.