The news had clearly hit her hard. Our receptionist came bursting into an afternoon meeting, a bit discombobulated itching to share the disturbing news.
“You know the security guard at M&C in town killed himself?” she relayed breathlessly.
We would later find out that this gentleman was 61-year-old Ephrem Boullie. The Belair, La Croix Maingot resident was found hanging from his bedroom roof, with a stool at his feet.
Given her obvious disbelief, I asked the young lady whether he was a personal friend. She admitted that their only acquaintance was through her trips to the store. But his kind nature always resonated with her.
“Every time I came there he used to tell me I am a beautiful girl, take care of myself, the world is dangerous. He had a very nice personality, always smiling. So I found it strange when they told me he hung himself because he seemed so passionate about life.”
News reports have indicated that even his children were unaware of any issues that would drive their father to this final act. His sister offered perhaps the only plausible insight; loneliness. He had lost both his wife and sister in a three year span.
Days before, 27-year-old Kefran Nancy St Clair, was also found hanging from the roof of her kitchen. The mother of three was employed at Bay Gardens. There are doubts surrounding her cause of death, but police are treating it as a suicide. The post mortem revealed death by ligature strangulation.
Back in May, Shem Sadoo of Augier ended his life. He left a note with no explanation, but one request: to leave his house in possession of his daughter.
Of course we will never know what triggered the actions of Boullie, St Clair and Sadoo, but we do know that they are part of a growing epidemic sweeping St Lucia in the past couple of years. And the question remains. What is being done to safeguard our country’s mental well-being?
In 2009, The Taiwanese government handed over the Saint Lucia National Mental Wellness Center, a state of the art facility featuring 84 beds for psychiatric patients, 24 beds for neurological patients, a diagnostic centre for X ray, an auditorium, a merged kitchen, laundry, medical records, library rooms, and providing administrative services for the Neuro-Psychiatric Centre.
This was expected to start the much-needed dialogue on depression and it’s infiltration of our culture. Depression is a mood disorder that has long been stigmatized in St Lucia and is often dismissed as trivial. Fear of ridicule robs the afflicted of their voice; they often suffer in silence. But left to its own devices, those persistent feelings of sadness and loss of interest can become much more than a passing cloud.
In a 2013 interview, one of the center’s psychologist’s, Naomi Jn Baptist, shared that depression left untreated can lead to suicidal thoughts, a trend which she noticed was rising on the island. And while the economy was often blamed, undetected depression was a major culprit. The doctor cautioned that for sufferers, professional help was urgent.
Intent on gleaning more insight, I called the center hoping to interview Jn Baptist. After encountering numerous unanswered calls and being volleyed around between departments, I finally made contact with an official who informed me that there were no doctors available.
“What time should I call back?”
“They’re all gone. They work from 8:00 – 12:30,” was her terse response.
“On Fridays?” I persisted.
“Monday to Friday.”
“Oh? Okay then.”
I was flummoxed. Am I to assume that all mental health issues should be put on hold after 12:30 pm daily? Keep that emotional turmoil bottled up inside until it can be addressed during those four and a half hours?
If we’re going to start making headway in what is becoming an increasingly common occurrence, we’re going to must do better than that. Can’t we at least spring for a hotline?