The death of a loved one from natural causes brings much heartache; how much more so the death of a loved one by suicide. Family members and close friends usually start examining their most recent interactions with the deceased to ascertain whether they missed out on any opportunity that could have avoided this tragedy. However, identifying the underlying causes of suicide and implementing realistic interventions is a mammoth task. Loved ones and close friends should be careful, as attributing blame for inaction on their part and on the part of others could have dire consequences. Nevertheless, there are some salient points worth considering.
It would be correct to assume that most cases of suicide result from a sense of hopelessness, determined to some extent by the victim’s perception of reality. This probably stems from the victim’s inability to reconcile problems with the assets or resources to deal with them. There is an element of brain development that merits attention; the role of religion and spirituality must also be considered.
For instance, a person who is dealing with failed relationships, especially after investing a lot of time and other valuable resources. Recounting the opportunity-cost of the invested time and resources could lead down a slippery slope. The age of the person may further compound the situation, to the extent that an older person may perceive that it is more difficult to start a new romantic relationship, find a new job or even interact with family, friends and neighbours. The separation of assets where divorce is involved, and financial compensation due to job loss, can be another source of distress, especially when it is perceived that the systems to handle these matters are unfair and biased. This can lead to isolation that provides an ideal condition for the thoughts of suicide to ferment, being unhindered by the frequent interruptions in thought processes that interactions with others provide.
Why would a young person commit suicide? Perhaps recent research on brain development can shed some light. In a research article published in the Boston Globe (2014) entitled, “Teens’ Brains Make Them More Vulnerable To Suicide,” it was reported that the part of the brain that “feels and stores emotions and is associated with impulses . . . matures well ahead of the section of the brain that regulates those emotions and impulses.”
The article further noted that “it’s during this period of brain development that kids often act out based on their mood . . . and when they may be at a heightened risk to commit suicide.” Moreover: “because adolescents rely heavily on the emotional regions of their brains, it can be challenging to make what adults consider logical and appropriate decisions” (The National Health Institute, 2013). Given the above, the following advice by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (2016) is worthy of note: These brain differences don’t mean that young people can’t make good decisions or tell the difference between right and wrong. It also doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be held responsible for their actions. An awareness of these differences can help parents, teachers, advocates, and policy makers understand, anticipate, and manage the behaviours of adolescents.
Some people ascribe to the point of view that belief in a higher power and a greater purpose in life than self-gratification can quell the thoughts of suicide. However, the increasing number of suicides in Saint Lucia is happening at a time when this is an explosion of religious organisations, and the services of spiritual/psychic healers is beginning to take root. There appears to be a disconnect which merits further investigation.
As the country tries to grapple with the increasing number of suicides there are testimonies that spark a gleam of hope. This is well illustrated in an article published in the New York Times (2017) on the economic crisis in Venezuela: a mother unable to bear the pain of watching her children go hungry “hung a cable and wrapped it around her neck” to commit suicide. She recalled that “when she was just about to hang herself, she heard her daughter start to cry, and her son called to her, telling her to open the door. She became overcome with guilt and decided against suicide.”