Sui­cide in Ru­ral Ar­eas

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By Keith­lin Ca­roo

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?

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