Sun | Nov 18, 2018

Suicidal gangsters - Criminals courting death, too coward to kill themselves

Published:Sunday | December 17, 2017 | 12:00 AMNadine Wilson-Harris

Noted psychiatrist, Professor Frederick Hickling, is convinced that some of Jamaica's most hardened criminals are courting death but instead of committing suicide they depend on rival gang members and police officers to end their lives.

"I think a lot of the murders that are committed and the murder toll that we see every year is as a result of suicide by gang and suicide by police, where young men who really see no future for themselves will tell you when you speak to them that by the time they are 23 or 24, they expect to be dead," Hickling told The Sunday Gleaner.

He charged that a part of the problem is that these gangsters do not have any idea where they want to go in life.

"My experience is that a lot of these people suffer from some kind of a psychological disassociation syndrome, which will make them think that they are invisible. So they will engage in shoot-outs and as a result, it is like an underlying death wish, and they eventually get killed," added Hickling.

"They know they will get killed, so it is actually like they are putting themselves in that position, so it is becoming known in the literature," he argued.

Some of these killers have invested in material possessions such as huge mansions and luxury cars with the profits from their illicit activities, and Hickling charged that part of the reality is that they feel they have to experience the pleasures of life from as early as possible since they do not feel they will have long to live.

"I have not been able to examine a number of these people, but for those that I have seen, I suspect that they are coming out of that categorisation where they don't see very much future for themselves, and the big houses and the cars based on what they are seeing around, they see it as quite transitory and that's easy come, easy go," he said.

There have been concerns over the years about the amount of wealth being amassed by youngsters in the western end of the island, who are engaged in lottery scamming, which is believed to be a major contributor to the high murder toll in St James, where more than 300 Jamaicans have been killed since the start of the year.




In the meantime, social and personality psychologist Dr Christopher Charles said some of these criminals feel invincible and so they are extremely daring when committing criminal activities and are extravagant with their living.

"They are living in the moment. They have to live, but they will tell you ennuh, I am going to die. Until that time, they want to live and they want to live big. There is no inconsistency really, they are living until they are killed, because they have to survive until they meet their fate that they have resigned themselves to," said Charges.

He argued that employment is one of the ways to reduce this sense of hopelessness among some of the youths who eventually join gangs.

"We do know that some of them are not going to leave the gangs irrespective of what you do; but we also know, from the science, that if young people are connected to productive activities that they find meaningful in their lives and that they can use to survive, a lot of them will turn away from violence," he said.

According to Charles, a man who has a family is oftentimes less willing to engage in risky lifestyle such as joining a gang.

"We do know that a youngster who is in a gang, if he gets married or starts having children, he is more likely to desist from violence than someone who is not in that situation," said Charles.

"We are not saying that gangsters don't have children or a wife, we are just saying that from the science or from what we know, if you have a wife and children, the protective instinct comes in," he added.

Like Charles, Hickling is convinced that engaging youths in meaningful employment is among the answers to stemming gangs and the outcome of their formation.

"I am really sorry for the police, because in my view, they are given a basket to carry water, because they cannot solve the problem, yet still they are being put out there to solve the problem.

"The solution to the problem is in a completely different direction with a completely different political mindset and a completely different social engineering direction, and the police are just part of the solution, they are not the solution, and we have to stop thinking of the police as the solution to every difficult problem that we have," said Hickling.