'J'cans don't kill themselves' - Hickling downplays U-Report poll in which more than 500 Jamaican youths said that they have considered suicide
More than 50 per cent of the nation's youth captured in a recent U-Report survey have considered suicide, with 31 per cent of the respondents saying they actually attempted to end their lives.
The result of the telephone poll which was done for August 7 to 14, and captured the response of 1,090 youths between the ages of 13 and 29, has been described as alarming by National U-Report Coordinator Christopher Harper.
"The recent finding of the poll has reinforced the view that the mental-health situation affecting youth in Jamaica should be regarded as a crisis," Harper told The Sunday Gleaner.
Don't be alarmed
But for noted psychiatrist Professor Frederick Hickling, the findings are nothing to be alarmed about.
"Jamaicans, we don't kill ourselves, we kill each other. High murder rate and a low suicide rate," said Hickling.
"It's to be expected as most young people pass through a phase of being uncertain, and a lot of people will have suicide ideation, but the actual number of people who convert suicidal thoughts into action, especially young people, is very low. In fact, Jamaica has one of the lowest suicide rates in the world, it has the third-lowest in the world," added Hickling.
Harper argued that suicide ideation and suicide attempts have always been live issues, but the attention that has been extended to this has been inadequate.
"Complacency cannot characterise the response to such a pressing issue, and greater resources should be allocated towards ensuring that interventions are tailored to address the diversity of the needs of young people and respect the importance of preserving their mental health," argued Harper, a view shared by Hickling.
"We have to spend a lot more money on mental-health services in the country. We spend a huge amount of money keeping Bellevue Hospital alive and open when it's really a waste of money. The money needs to be spent more appropriately in mental-health services in the community.
"We need to move those nurses and doctors out into the community where they serve the community and spend the money out there in serving the needs of the people," declared Hickling.
U-Report is a free social messaging tool that allows youth from communities islandwide to respond to questions, access information and work as positive agents of change.
While it now has more than 2,200 registered U-Reporters, the mental health and suicide poll was the only one of the weekly soundings to attract more than 1,000 respondents.