Suicide in Rural Areas
Writer’s note: This piece discusses suicide. If you have experienced suicidal thoughts or have lost someone to suicide and want to seek help, you can contact the National Health Helpline by dialling the short code 203.
Suicide is often left undiscussed, particularly in rural areas, but being a Babonneau-ian (if that is even a word) and living in an area with the highest rates of suicide, you can’t help but wonder what factors lead people to ultimately take their own lives. Some say that these problems lie in the spiritual realm; just two years ago there was a vigil, bringing together religious leaders from the district and the current MP, to pray for the ‘cleansing’ of Babonneau. But no one has ever compared the environments that many of these victims come from. In fact, contrary to popular belief, if we look at neighbouring countries like Guyana, statistics show that rural communities consistently have higher rates of suicide than urban communities. Agricultural villages in Guyana have even been dubbed the “suicide belt” of the country. The same goes for the United States and India where suicide is higher in rural populations. If we look at the cases in Saint Lucia in 2017 alone, out of the four suicides that occurred, three of them were in rural areas.
But in areas that most people would think are carefree and idealistic, what could possibly lead to suicide? In most instances, and as assessed by the Guyana Suicide Prevention Plan, “poverty, stigmas about mental illness, access to lethal chemicals, alcohol misuse, interpersonal violence, family dysfunction and insufficient mental health resources are key factors”.
Rural communities tend to be isolated from clinics and social support networks that are more prevalent in urban areas. Coping mechanisms such as alcohol play a huge role, particularly when they are introduced at a young age. My community of Fond Assau has two “rum shops” directly across from the Fond Assau School. Alcohol misuse is a phenomenon that rural children are exposed to from a very early age and could even lead to the thinking that it’s acceptable. Furthermore, even the tools used for suicide are representative of rural areas and farming. How many numbers have taken their lives by drinking Gramoxone, a commonly used pesticide in farming? The argument isn’t that suicide is only prevalent in rural areas, it is that more attention needs to be paid to an area more isolated and how its residents cope with trauma, mental health issues and family dysfunction without the proximity of social support networks. While we make memes or jokes about the relation to suicide and people in rural areas like Babonneau, for example, it is a very real disease, even in our “idyllic” farming communities.
Have we ever wondered why there is a higher rate of suicide in rural areas?