Preach to connect with the people
September 13, 2019
24th Sunday in OT (C)
September 13, 2019

Suicide Awareness and Prevention

By Kaelanne Jordan
Twitter: @kaelanne1

For persons who have lost a loved one to suicide, it’s important that you remember who they were—loving human beings and great individuals. Honour their lives and memories and do not define their existence by this act.

Crystal Johnson, mental health clinician at the Archdiocesan Family Life Commission (AFLC) offered these words of encouragement during a Topic Thursdays’ episode on Facebook live, Thursday, September 12.

Tuesday, September 10 was Suicide Prevention Day, and Johnson’s latest session explored ‘Suicide Awareness/Prevention’ during which she spoke of some of the possible causes of suicide, its signs, and ways persons can help in prevention.

Johnson mentioned local articles on suicide, namely from Anna Maria Mora, counselling psychologist and past president of the Trinidad and Tobago Association of Psychologists (TTAP), which she found to be “really good” in that the conversation is happening locally.

Statistics indicate that Trinidad and Tobago ranked third highest in the Caribbean with respect to the prevalence of mental illness.

“And this is a public issue,” Johnson said.

There’s a continuum of suicide. Johnson defined suicide as death caused by self-directed, injurious behaviour with any intent to die, but also included along the continuum, suicide ideation when a person has thoughts of killing herself/himself.

“And that could range from a very vague wish of wanting to disappear; ‘I don’t want to be here anymore’, to an active thought, plan and intent to kill yourself,” she said.

Johnson said research shows that over the last 50 years or so, there is still not a “single concrete” reason or contributing factor for suicide. She thinks it has been difficult to pinpoint such factors because suicide is a “multidetermined” issue.

Some possible factors for suicide:

Lack of social connectedness:  Johnson referred to a podcast from the American Psychological Association which discussed the role of smartphones and social media leading to an increased risk of suicide. She emphasised that smartphones and social media are not “intrinsically bad” but become dangerous when they keep someone from engaging in human interaction and connection.

Loss of some significance: Johnson attributed death, divorce, the loss of a job as factors which can make someone vulnerable to suicide. Of the latter, she asserted that this loss can be a source of humiliation and insecurity.

Existing mental disorder/s: Depression, anxiety, mood disorders, postpartum depression, feelings of pain at not being understood, and the desire to isolate further are contributing factors to suicide.

History of abuse and trauma: According to Johnson, a person exposed to abuse, violence, trauma has a “higher risk” of developing the desire to end one’s life. “It becomes a habit, so you’re born into it; you’re groomed into it; and you don’t see any other way out,” she observed.

Stigma of associating with mental illness and asking for help: While we are in the age of technology, and information is easily accessible, stigma is attached to wanting to seek help. She maintained that getting professional help does not signal that you are crazy or something is wrong with you. “Professionals are here to help; they are neutral. They are here to give empathy and to focus on you and what you need to do to get to the better version of you,” she maintained.

Warning signs of suicide:

  • Obsession with death and dying
  • Loss of interest in personal appearance
  • Increased use of drugs and alcohol abuse
  • Previous suicide attempts
  • Dramatic changes in behaviour, eg having trouble eating or sleeping
  • Withdrawal from friends and social activities
  • Lack of interest in activities
  • Preparing for death eg creating wills, notes, making final arrangements, distributing belongings

For more information on suicide awareness and prevention, please check the Trinidad and Tobago Associations of Psychologists webpage : or visit their Facebook page:…/