Suicide-prevention organisation launched

Published: Sunday | May 3, 2009

Nadisha Hunter, Gleaner Writer


Daniel ( left) and Josef Thomas, sons of Dr Donovan and Faith Thomas, performing a 'string ministry' at the official launch of the suicide-prevention organisation, Choose Life International, last Sunday. - Contributed

MALES OUTNUMBER females about 11 to one in committing suicide in Jamaica. This is being blamed in part on how boys are socialised.

Dr Donovan Thomas, founder and president of the suicide-prevention organisation in Kingston, Choose Life International (CLI), blames this on the socialisation of males, which undermines their confidence level.

Identifying factors that contribute to men resorting to suicide, Thomas said: "It's almost like parents teach their boys that it's inappropriate to express their feelings, so the men are lacking in that. As a society, the best thing we can do is to help our men to improve."

He said psychological, economic and social factors help to push men overboard.

Burdened males

"Men sometimes are called upon to bear the brunt of the responsibilities of finances, which is sometimes burdensome to them. Sometimes, they are not able to make it and sometimes, they decide that they can't take it any longer," said Thomas.

But despite the disturbing suicide rate, he said not much was being done to curtail the problem. As a result, the demand for help gets greater.

It is in that light that Choose Life International was formed. Its four-fold focus includes suicide prevention and grief counselling, alignment with divine purpose, missions and evangelism.

"We want to educate and empower people in all areas of society to identify the warning signs and be able to take corrective measures before their loved ones and associates kill themselves," stated Thomas, who cofounded the CLI with wife, Faith.

Motivational speeches

The organisation, which started last October, visits churches and schools, giving motivational speeches in an attempt to help emotionally unstable individuals.

"The primary function of the organisation is to counsel persons who are in a depressed state so that they will withdraw any intention of wanting to take their lives," stated Thomas, whose organisation's intervention has already prevented a number of suicides in the country. Thomas said they are called on a regular basis by organisations, including schools, to help prevent a suicide.

As part of the group's mission, professionals, including guidance counsellors, human-resource managers and nurses, are trained to identify and help persons who are depressed. Parents, pastors and peer counsellors are also trained in seminars, the latest of which was held in Cayman. A similar series is scheduled for Jamaica later this year.

The programme is geared not only at intervening after someone has become suicidal, but also to get persons to desist from committing the act.

"Part of the preventative method is to meet persons where they are and try to work with them to recover, as things can be better," stated Thomas.

Suicides in Jamaica 2007-2008

Year: Males, Females

2007: 46, 4
2008: 41, 6

For the first 51 days of this year, 10 persons committed suicide in the island with half of them between the ages of 11 and 20 years old.

In the last five years, 34 persons under age 20 have taken their lives. Two of these persons were under the age of 10 years old.

Source: Choose Life International