Like the weekly reports of horrific homicides and rapes, suicides are fast becoming commonplace here, talked about for a day or two, then forgotten following the usual meaningless talk from some previously unheard of psychologist. The minister of health, when cornerned, offers some drivel about parents and their sons. As for our churches, their representatives seem to have their own image concerns and little time for anything else.
Meanwhile the popular complaint is that the island is under a cloud of depression and mental disorders too long ignored. Urbanization, rampant unemployment and the high cost of living have also been blamed for the unprecedented suicide rate, with no comment from the prime minister.
The year 2014 ended much as it started, with two reported suicides and one failed attempt. On Sunday December 28 a 73-year-old man named Cletus Mark was rushed to St. Jude Hospital after he was suspected of having served himself a dose of poison. He died the next day. Police confirmed the man, a resident of Augier, Vieux Fort, had ingested the deadly gramoxone.
On Christmas Day Nicholas Leonce of Fond Assau was rushed to Victoria Hospital after he too had ingested gramoxone. He is reported to be in a stable condition.
On Boxing Day, the body of ‘Albert’ of Barre Denis, reportedly in his mid-20s, was found hanging beneath his house.
This week the Director of Human Services and Family Affairs, Elizabeth Lewis, spoke for everyone else when she said she would like to see a decline in the number of suicides.
She added that there would be no decline if the authorities did not invest more in healthcare. Predictably, she added: “It must be a collaborative effort between government and the community, to ensure that less people take their own lives. At Human Services we are hoping that next year we can help to provide persons with another way out and help them come to terms with the various challenges in life.”
Small consolation for the relatives of those who had taken their own lives.
Over the last several months the Mental Wellness Centre has been attempting to create a public awareness of the availability of psychiatrists, clinical counselors, social workers, clinical psychologists and nurses, said to be “ready to help individuals and families.” Our own investigations suggest the proffered services are not always available.
According to the Mental Wellness Centre, suicide in Saint Lucia is the fourth principal cause of death among young people and the ninth leading cause of death among older people, 94% of the victims being male.
Last January 31, the body of Malcolm Hippolyte, aka My King, of Mongiraud, was found hanging from his ceiling. In May Shem Sadoo, 29, of Augier, Vieux-Fort died similarly at his house. The following month the victim was Kefran St. Clair, 27. She had hanged herself at her rented apartment in Morne Du Don, Castries.
In July Ephrem Boullie, 61, a security guard of M&C, was found hanging from a rope in his bedroom at La Croix Maingot. Exactly one month later Dale Roberts, 51, a British national resident in Anse Ger, Desruisseaux, was discovered hanging from a tree. That same month 67-year-old Gregor Moncherry of Laborie was discovered dead at the end of a rope at Saphire beach.
Vincent Collymore, aka Ras, another Laborian, hanged himself on September 19. On October 22 Victor Albert was discovered dead at the Gros Islet Fisheries Complex. A post-mortem revealed he died of “respiratory failure secondary to toxic ingestion.”
In October the nation was shocked at the news that the latest suicide was 15-year-old Ebony Darius of Grand Riviere. She had hanged herself in her bedroom closet. On November 19 Barnard Mortley of Maynard Hill, a former Saint Mary’s College student was found hanging from his bedroom ceiling. On that same day Gabriel Rene, 62, also hanged himself.
The wild promises notwithstanding, the popular expectation is that things will be worse than ever in the New Year, economically and otherwise. Perhaps the prime minister is waiting to address the suicides in his New Year message. Meanwhile, many relatives of the dearly departed hold the politicians responsible for the atmosphere that appears to be a breeding ground for suicides!