Recently I spoke with Faith Catherine, one of the Crisis Centre’s two part-time counsellors. I had reached out to her for the purposes of discussing the public perception on mental health – a topic that was timely considering Sunday, September 10 marks World Suicide Prevention Day.
Faith, who has been working with the Centre since 2011, spoke about the Centre and its functions, including intervention in situations involving domestic abuse, sexual abuse, relationship and family problems, as well as depression and suicide.
Concerning the stigma surrounding mental health in a small island society, Faith opined, “People feel that what they go through, they are the only ones going through it. They think others will laugh and make fun of them so they don’t want people to know they come here, or that they have problems.”
But counselling people through difficult situations is precisely what facilities like the Crisis Centre in Saint Lucia are for.
“Counselling frees them to the point they can talk about what is bothering them without the fear of being ridiculed,” Faith shared. “There’s the understanding that other people have gone through similar situations, and there is hope.”
Despite the wide range of issues the Centre deals with every day, Faith said most of the time people just needed someone to talk to. She recalled a situation where a man had come in tears to a counselling session. “He opened up about an intimate situation involving his wife that he had not spoken about to anyone,” she said. “He had promised he wouldn’t talk about it, and then in the end he told me, ‘Do you know how it feels to finally talk?’ ”
The weight had been lifted off his shoulders, and counsellors at the Crisis Centre can tell of many more instances where their efforts have helped people cope with difficult situations.
“It’s about reassurance,” she said. “One of the fears people have is that they’re going crazy. Whatever it is that they are going through drives them beyond the point of reasonable thinking. They are surprised when we let them know other people have gone through similar problems, and lived.”
Faith felt there were changes that needed to be made in the wider society to help lower suicide numbers.
“We need to be more aware,” she said. “We as a society are not empathetic. We tend to criticize, name call, use derogatory terms, and that drives people to self-harm . . . Sometimes we as a society are bent on destroying, rather than building up, and that becomes a problem.”
Most of all Faith felt it was important for people suffering with depression to know that “sometimes because of what we go through, this is normal behaviour. There is help available.”
“We don’t turn people away,” she promised. “If they are distressed, they can come in and talk to us.”