Concerned that Barbados seems to be recording at least one suicide per month recently, psychologist Shawn Clarke is calling on the state to pay urgent attention to the mental health and emotional well-being of citizens.
He said that while he is aware that the Government is working around-the-clock to achieve and maintain economic growth, it is time that resources be put towards dealing with the psychological challenges that young people, particularly young males, are facing.
“Youth and community organisations need to come out and play their part as well in terms of putting on other social activities, workshops, seminars, whatever, at the community level.
“We need to get back our community centres vibrant again, not only in terms of cultural activities, but in terms of activities sharing information with the populace about suicide, about mental health, about self-esteem building, about being able to cope with the pressures of today,” he said during an interview with Barbados TODAY.
His comments came as police continue to investigate the suspected suicide of 30-year-old Jonathan Forte of Ashdeane Village, Black Rock St Michael. Lawmen received a report around 11:30 p.m on Wednesday at the Black Rock Police Station that a man used a bedsheet to hang himself from a door frame while at his residence at the same location. Forte, a father of three, was identified by members of his family.
On July 21, the close-knit Allen View, St Thomas community was thrown into a state of shock when the body of 21-year-old Keshawn Bartlett was discovered hanging from a pear tree a short distance from his home.
In a July 7 story carried by Barbados TODAY family members of 32-year-old Andrew Cumberbatch were seeking answers about how he was able to leave the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) where he had been on suicide watch. His body was discovered on the beach behind Pirate’s Cove on Lower Bay Street, St Michael, around 5:24 a.m. It is suspected that Cumberbatch committed suicide.
Clarke suggested that while churches also have a major role to play in tackling the issue of suicide on the island, the private sector must also extend a helping hand to Government and provide necessary funding for programmes.
He insisted that such assistance is needed soon considering that there is not much public discourse regarding persons who attempt suicide.
“The ones that reach the airwaves are the ones that unfortunately succeed in committing suicide. But I know that there are a lot of persons with suicidal ideas, or suicidal thoughts, or suicidal attempts, that would not necessarily reach the airwaves.
“I think it is time that we pay close attention to it. We cannot afford to allow suicide to become the norm. We really need to put systems in place, put initiatives in place. We need to stop crying down everything that people are doing and come together and build avenues that can help young people to be able to stand on their feet and to be able to deal with some of the situations that they face,” he said.
Clarke, who is the founder and director of Supreme Counselling for Personal Development, said his organisation is currently seeking financial assistance to take counselling clinics to communities to reach those who may be unable to pay for such services.
“We are going to go into the community and we are going to decentralise our counselling. We also have plans to take our Project Rescue programme where we go into schools, and decentralise that project in community centres on Saturday mornings and do things like self-esteem building. We want to be able to work with our young people because we realise that we also have a role to play in developing the social fibre of Barbados,” Clarke said.