Dear Editor: In the wake of three youth suicides, is T&T ready to consider the mentally ill?

“How competent and resourced are the existing services [that deal with suicidal people and the mentally ill]? The answer to that question will tell you how serious were are about treating this problem.”

The following release on youth suicide and society, which follows three suicides over the past two weeks, was submitted to Letter to the Editor by Lifeline:

Photo: Sheri Holland from new Netflix series, 13 Reasons Why, which is a drama based on a teenage suicide.

The three young people who took their lives in the last two weeks is not just an urgent call about mental illness, but the need to examine the role that  loved ones, families, employers, schools and society play before and after the desperate act to end one’s life.

According to Lifeline director, Lucretia Gabriel: “It is usually a crisis that will trigger the action of someone taking their life. This comes on top of the problem of what may have already existed in their everyday life.”

Lifeline is the country’s only listening service for the despairing and suicidal.  The service receives about 4000 calls per year from people, of which 80 per cent are suicidal.

“People who take their own lives are still marginalised up until their death. Our approach to the prevention of people taking their own lives leaves a lot to be desired,” the Lifeline founder said.

Gabriel added:  “Often the necessary help lies with the loved ones, who sometime don’t know what to do. There aren’t sufficiently equipped services with qualified professionals, to assist and most people involved with a suicidal person end up just as frustrated as the person.

Photo: The image of a suicidal man.
(Copyright TheSunDaily)

“We have to ask the question where can I go if I need help for some or for someone I love. How competent and resourced are the existing services? The answer to that question will tell you how serious were are about treating this problem.

“That’s where the NGOs like Lifeline are able to help. But what we do is still limited by a lack of support from the authorities.”

Gabriel, who often sits at the end of the line to listen to someone in need, has been around the despairing and suicidal for almost 40 years and she said little or “no real change” has happened in this country to assist people who are suicidal.

“The national statistics on suicide in all ages is sadly outdated. There is a need with the public cases of suicide to look closer and try to determine the best ways to assist. A major assistance to both the person and those who love them is to have the services available widely known. This is necessary often during the night or on public holidays when other services are not available,” said Gabriel.

Lifeline is the only helpline in T&T which has concentrated on supplying services to the despairing and suicidal.  From June 1978 to May 2017 it paid the price for that. It has been the last and least funded of the helplines.

Photo: Lifeline logo.

It is cause for celebration that the all three telephone companies: Digicel, Flow & TSTT have recently assisted so that the calls to Lifeline are free.

Experienced listeners have returned and the service is available 24/7. 800 5588 and 231 2824 are toll free and 220 3636. Flow to Flow is free.

Lifeline only recently reintroduced its 24 hour listening service. It had had to cut back listening hours due to a reduction in donations and Government support, its only fund sources to cover operating costs.

Funding from Government, public and corporate donors is not consistent. But the shortfall of volunteers and funds is a constant battle for the critical listening service.

At  the  moment,  Lifeline  operates  with  between 30 to 60  volunteers and needs 120 to better serve those in need of the critical listening service. People wishing to donate to Lifeline may make deposits to Republic Bank account number 160105131401.

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  1. As usual we are a reactionary people, Youth suicide has been on the increase, yet nothing has been put in place. whne th young UWI student cimmittd suiced, we were told the Lifeline organization were active for 8 hrs only, I believe it is 24 hrs now. What facilities are in place to assist them?, Imagine in this day an age young people of different race or ethnicity are not allowed to have a relationship and for them the alternative is suicide, Millions spent or stolen but lack facilities to help our children/youths Where are the NGOs who are collecting monies, where are their voices? In fact what are they doing? we do the same things over and over with little or no results,but paying Boards . institutions and organizations

  2. One of the things I wanted to do since December was set up a mobile app and therapy Talk Chat service where folks can text their concerns and get email responses, breaking down the barriers of not having someone to reach out to. Not having sounding boards, for those who see therapy as ominous, unaffordable, embarrassing.. Canbe done anonymously. And folk can choose the level of their engagement according to comfort and preference for human presence or absence. And overall to make therapy and mental health as normal as a dentist visit. Wait. (Blank stares cause people don’t do dentist and preventative care visits) make therapy as common as grocery shopping. Food purchasing. Ain’t no shame in pushing for mental wellness.

  3. Didn’t that female khan Dr say report to JSC that there were 400 students on suicide watch?

    I wrote her immediately. She was kind to acknowledge and answer. I was offering an intervention idea for all four hundred, immediately.

    Her response was they were having talks with ministries and stakeholders to see how they can be part of the solution.

    In my response back I told her , “Bureaucracy will be the death of us all.”

    If anyone thinks this lapse, gap, collateral is OK, they are insane.

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