Wed | Oct 16, 2019

Psychologist: Difficult working with parents after children commit suicide

Published:Friday | September 13, 2019 | 12:06 AMAndre Williams/Staff Reporter
Psychologist Dr Faith Thomas speaking at a Gleaner Editors’ Forum on suicides last week Thursday.
Psychologist Dr Faith Thomas speaking at a Gleaner Editors’ Forum on suicides last week Thursday.

Dealing with parents who lose children to suicide might be hard, but it’s possible to reach them, says psychologist Faith Thomas,

Thomas, director of counselling at Choose Life International (CLI), whose counselling repertoire spans three decades, was speaking at a recent Gleaner Editors’ Forum, which focused on dealing with suicides in Jamaica.

CLI, which Thomas co-founded with suicidologist husband Dr Donovan Thomas, seeks to help parents to cope with their children’s suicide.

“We have something that Donovan did and it’s called ‘We Can Cope’. It is, basically, helping them to face their loss, to grieve, to let go of the anger, the hurt, and the guilt, and to reconfigure life,” she said. “It’s hard. It’s very hard, but it is possible.”

Thomas related an account of some loved ones struggling to come to term’s with a young woman’s suicide.

“Their daughter, who was 20-odd, took her life, and I remember when we were working with their family, their friends, [it was] very, very hard. However, the parents have decided to configure meaning out of it, to have some sort of foundation in her honour to help people understand what could cause something like this and how to get help,” Thomas said.

The parents, she said, did not see any warning signs.

“What they said is, ‘We didn’t see any signs’, but signs were there. It’s just that they didn’t see it. So she (deceased) was a very vivacious young lady. She had put out things on Facebook – dark poetry, just dark – and her friends saw it, but her parents didn’t see it,” Thomas said. “She became withdrawn. That was also a sign. One of the things is that when persons are depressed and they have decided that, this is it, I am going to end my life’, they become happy, and so that is what happened. She started to become happy and jovial and so and nobody recognised that she was at peace with the decision.”

Several Jamaican families have been devastated by suicide and attempted suicide. It gets even harder to handle when it is a murder-suicide as the victims are usually both parents.

According to statistics from the Jamaica Constabulary Force, the suicide rate jumped by 30 per cent among Jamaicans last year, moving from 47 deaths in 2017 to 61 in 2018.

CLI will be hosting a seminar on the issue at the Jamaica Conference Centre today from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

andre.williams@gleanerjm.com