Sands: Take mental health and suicide seriously
Following the country’s fifth reported suicide last week, Health Minister Dr. Duane Sands said yesterday that although a suicide hotline is an interesting idea, it is more important to educate individuals to recognize and respond to mental illness.
“The issue of a suicide hotline, while it certainly is a very interesting idea, the question is, of course, what value is it going to bring in exchange for what it’s going to cost because not everybody who might be contemplating suicide will necessarily call it,” Sands said in an interview with The Nassau Guardian.
“And, so, certainly I think in the first instance what we ought to do is acknowledge that there are existing services that have been in place.
“There is already a number that is staffed, albeit not 24 hours per day, there is a Crisis Centre, there’s Sandilands, there [are] other places.
“So, at this point, I don’t see this as something that necessarily we should be very reactive on.
“More importantly, we need to be sensitive to challenges of mental health issues to recognize that sometimes people can have major depression that can go undetected.
“As a community, I think we should have more sensitization and education on mental health issues to acknowledge that this is not about being weak, it’s not about not having faith but speaks to a number of issues.
“I think if we take that approach as well as train individuals to recognize and respond to mental illness, we’d have much more impact than just creating a suicide hotline.”
On February 19, a man was found dead from a gunshot wound to the upper body at an apartment in Kennedy Subdivision. Police said the gunshot wound was believed to be self-inflicted.
On March 13, a man was found hanging from a door in a home in Winton Estates.
Hours later, during the early morning hours of March 14, a woman’s body was found hanging from a door at a home on Paradise Island.
On April 24, a man in his 50s was found hanging in a closet in his apartment on Haven Street off Farrington Road.
On May 10, a woman was found in a home on Falcon Crest with visible injuries. Police said an autopsy would confirm the exact cause of death.
However, the investigation was being treated as a suicide.
Asked if the issue of mental health is taken seriously in The Bahamas, Sands said it is not that we don’t take it seriously, but we don’t understand it.
“I think a reasonable assessment of the community is that we don’t understand it,” Sands said.
“Certainly, from the health sector there has been, over the last five years, an attempt to improve mental health services but much more can be done and needs to be done.
“We empower the mental health tribunal starting in 2017 and we continue to work through the Pan American Health Organization with the Mental Health Gap [Action] Programme.
“But certainly, I think we have some cultural and educational challenges in the country to believe that, like I said, people that have mental health issues do so because they’re either not strong or because they require a stronger faith [or] that they just need to get it together.
“That’s a very unfortunate view given the environment in which we live.”
To anyone contemplating suicide, Sands urged them to reach out for help.
“They should reach out to someone that they trust,” Sands said.
“Reach out to a physician, reach out to a close friend or family member but certainly be very explicit and, I think, to those people who may respond to such a request to take things seriously when people say something, to take it seriously and not be dismissive.”
Education: Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) 3rd Year