Sun | Jan 24, 2021

Suicidal shotters - Gangsters taking out self-hate on society is a cry for help – experts

Published:Sunday | September 22, 2019 | 12:00 AMCorey Robinson - Staff Reporter
Dr Henley Morgan
Dr Donovan Thomas
Professor Frederick Hickling

Many of Jamaica’s gangsters are believed to be suffering from depression and other mental illnesses that can lead to suicide, and according to local experts on the topic, most of them are simply calling out for help with each murder and shooting they commit.

The argument is being made by representatives of Choose Life International (CLI), a faith-based charitable organisation that is trying to raise awareness about the issue of suicide that has claimed at least 210 lives since 2016.

At least 47 persons have ended their own lives since the start of the year, while 61 persons killed themselves in 2018.

At least one man and a teenage girl are reportedly recovering in hospital following botched suicide attempts recently.

“By all statistics and surveys, murder is Jamaica’s number-one concern. We know the prevalence: we have been as high as 65 per 100,000, and I believe murder is a mask for suicide in Jamaica,” stated CLI member Dr Henley Morgan, who has done extensive work with troubled youths living in Arnett Gardens and other tough communities.

“When you are on the ends and you hear the youths dem talking, some will say ‘a dash dem a dash weh dem life’. Some of them want to be killed. Some of them expect to be killed because they have no hope, and that is a description almost of depression.”

Morgan added, “In other words, the conditions that exist for suicide and murder, I think that the root causes are the same.”

He was advancing arguments that have repeatedly been made by noted psychiatrist Professor Frederick Hickling, who believes Jamaica’s most hardened criminals are courting death but instead of committing suicide, they depend on rival gang members for their demise.

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


According to police statistics, at least 58 teenagers, the youngest 14 years old, were arrested and charged by the police in 2017 for murder; and the majority of the homicide victims killed over the last two years were in their teenage or early adulthood.

Dr Donovan Thomas, founder and president of CLI, noted that the suicide numbers over the years – excluding elderly persons – reflect a similar trend, with most being carried out by young adults.

He said that many of the murders being committed by Jamaican youngsters are, at their surface, cries for help.

Last year, at least 22 persons between the ages of five and 34 ended their own lives, while there were 16 persons over the age of 60 who committed suicide. St Ann led the other parishes, recording 10 suicides in 2018; while Clarendon followed with seven incidents and Manchester with six.

Fewer than 20 women have committed suicide locally, according to statistics provided by the police. The other victims were males.



…Don’t tell them to snap out of it, begs mom


Jamaican-born Canadian, Judith Tomlinson, lost her 34-year-old son, Kurt Tomlinson, to suicide. He was diagnosed as bipolar and suffering from depression in November 2012.

With tears in her eyes, Tomlinson is urging Jamaicans, especially parents, to be more understanding of persons suffering from mental illness, and who may have suicidal tendencies.

“The stigma that is attached to mental illness is what I am fighting against. When people hear mental-illness, they say you are crazy and don’t want to hear about it and tell you to ‘snap out of it’,” she said.

“As someone suffering with mental illness, the last thing you want someone to tell you is to snap out of it.”