Suicide rash send shockwaves in Barbados

Suicide rash send shockwaves in Barbados

SEPTEMBER 14, 2013 | BY  |

Though the worry may be small when compared to what happens in Guyana, Barbados is now into soul-searching following five apparent suicides in five weeks.
The last incident was over the weekend, and in a country with a national average of seven persons per 100,000 in a population that fluctuates just below 300,000 according to World Health Organization 2006 figures, this rash of death by people at their own hands would create shock waves.

For that same year, Guyana registered 52 deaths by suicide for every 100,000 persons in a population estimated to be just over 750,000.

A sign that many societies are yet to treat such loss of life with the seriousness it deserves, is that accurate figures on these deaths are difficult to come by.

The fifth death in Barbados was of 56-year-old Selwyn Sobers, who neighbours found hanging in his home Sunday, two days before World Suicide Prevention Day.

The other suspected suicides were a young woman, Monica Marshall-Wilkinson, whose body was found at the bottom of a cliff on August 2; 49-year-old David Layne, who was found hanging on August 6; 18-year-old Chevonne King, who was also found hanging on August 30; and a police recruit, 30-year-old Darwin Downes, who is believed to have shot himself in the head at the Regional Police Training Centre on September 1.

Prior to these, there were two reported cases of death this year believed to be by suicide. One person is said to have jumped off a high building in June and the other was found hanging in July.
Prominent Barbadian priest, Father Clement Paul, who counsels many distressed souls, said money is not usually the problem, but a breakdown in the traditional family relationship.

“In the Caribbean we had our own family structure. It was mother, father, grannies, aunties and the village that reared the child. The teachers and principals were the other parents; now all that is gone. Now children are having children and nobody is mentoring these young people. The family is no longer sacred,” Father Paul said.

He also blamed modernization and technological advances for contributing to social dislocation. “Technology is making islands out of people and no man is an island.”

Clinical Psychologist and University of the West Indies Lecturer, Donna Maynard, agreed with Fr Paul. “We have adopted this individualistic culture in Barbados that is alien to our way of life,” she said, and added, “We have lost a lot of family connection through migration and death”.
Anderson Kellman, a Psychologist and Counselor opined that young people are no longer resilient, “At the first sign of difficulty they want to give up. Also, the whole idea of sanctity of life is under attack. People shoot and kill one another over small things and suicide is only a step from that because it is violence against yourself.”

Guyana’s Member of Parliament, Dr George Norton, last week quoted statistics from research commissioned by Dr Frank Beckles showing 501 reported cases of suicide here over a five-year period from 1995.

Dr Norton did not comment on whether there is scant regard for the sanctity of life in Guyana as the Barbados scenario painted by Psychologist Kellman, but called on Government to come up with a new plan because a 2007 strategy failed to halt what he described as an epidemic here.

“The so-called National Suicide Prevention Strategy apparently has been abandoned and something else needs to be done,” he said.

Regardless of the reasons, these two regional territories of vastly different sizes share a problem of suicides among their people.

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