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J’can men outnumber women 11 to 1 in suicides

Published:Tuesday | September 10, 2019 | 12:12 AMCarlene Davis/Gleaner Writer

While the topic is difficult for most, experts believe the methods and risk factors of suicide have to be discussed if the country is to see a fall in the numbers of persons who kill themselves annually.

Accorded to police data, 61 people committed suicide in Jamaica last year. Of that number, 56 were males and five females.

Forty of those males committed suicide by hanging. Ingesting poison was the second highest method used.

St Ann was listed as the police division with the highest number of reported suicides for 2018.

“Hanging is what is most common. Majority of those in Jamaica die by hanging. In the context of the United States, where the gun is more readily available, 51 per cent of those who die by suicide in the United States do so by gun, so it is the means of death that is more readily available,” said Dr Donovan Thomas, founder and president of Choose Life International.

Thomas, who was addressing journalists at a Gleaner Editors’ Forum last Thursday ahead of today’s World Suicide Prevention Day, pointed out that the majority of people who commit suicide locally are men in the age range 25-44, most of whom are single. Of note is that while more women attempt suicide, more men follow through.


“Let’s talk about the risk factors: a history of substance abuse, people with disability, physical disabilities or illness, recent death of family or close friends, exposure to bullying, sexual abuse, and mental health condition,” Thomas said.

He added that among the high-risk groups are “people with easy access to harmful means of death, relationship problems, and that usually leads to murder suicide, previous suicide attempt, hopelessness, and a desire to escape their present realities”.

Speaking on the role of culture or geography in methods of suicide, Dr Kevin Golbourne pointed to Trinidad and Guyana, where pesticides and hanging are also popular.

“In those countries, there is a cultural explanation, and the Indian community, actually, is top of the list,” said Golbourne, consultant psychiatrist and acting director of mental health and substance abuse in the Ministry of Health and Wellness.

“When they don’t feel as if they are able to deliver, when their expectations to meet obligations of the family and friends have failed, they feel as if they might as well kill themselves. But there is also the element of alcohol combining with that, and again, the easy access. Everybody can buy the Gramoxone. You can have it there on your farm and you decide, say, ‘You know what, I can’t meet my obligations. I might as well just kill myself’.”

Golbourne continued: “In Guyana and Trinidad, you have a large Indian population. They are sugar farmers who have access to rums and have access to the pesticides that are used in farming, and over time, that becomes something in society, where you hear about those who have gone before you who have committed suicide by poisoning, so it becomes almost like a cultural thing you learn from history.”