Sui­cide Pre­ven­tion Starts With the Com­mu­nity

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By Kayra Wil­liams

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.”

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