The Mental Health Association is today holding the first of a two day conference on suicide. The theme is, “Why are we so misunderstood? An Innovative Approach to Suicide Prevention and Intervention”. Through the conference, the Association is hoping to provide comprehensive and well researched information on the current situation on suicide in Belize, prevention methods, and treatment guidelines to nurses, police, school counselors, clergy and others interested in the issue. Love News spoke with President of the Mental Health Association, Jenny Lovell.

Jenny Lovell – President, Mental Health Association
“We’ve been getting calls from all over the country, not only from school counselors but from parents, from community people. We were getting calls from Benque and when we started looking at the numbers we thought that since we didn’t have a conference this year we should do something to not just talk about suicide but some of the signs, symptoms and what you should not do when there is an attempt or there is an actual suicide.”

One of the presenters is Doctor Claudina Cayetano, psychiatrist and director of the Mental Health Program under the Ministry of Health. According to Dr. Cayetano, more Belizean youth are committing suicide.

Dr. Claudina Cayetano – Director, Mental Health Program
“It is a problem and the reason why we are doing this is because we are all concerned. We are seeing changes in terms of many years ago older people attempted suicide more than younger people and now we are seeing that younger people are attempting suicide and actually committing suicide. Now it is not only relevant to Belize. It is worldwide. You see that in almost every part of the world where suicide is much higher in youth and we are seeing that in Belize and that is why we are concerned because suicide is preventable. People should not die because of suicide and I think it is an opportunity to bring teachers and counselors and health practitioners together to see what can be done to lower our numbers.”

Dr. Cayetano adds that this year, in an attempt to better monitor the situation in the country, the Ministry of Health has developed an alert system.

Dr. Claudina Cayetano – Director, Mental Health Program
“The Ministry of Health through the epidemiology department has now started to develop this alert system so we know more or less when a suicide attempt comes into the system. We are monitoring that and it is important to start monitoring it. So, yes there is a number but the number of attempts is a bit low but it is because sometimes people don’t necessarily come to the clinics for a follow up. It is important that we can capture these people so we can provide treatment. The people who attempt suicide can attempt again and again so this number is not high; it is low and it would be good that we get them to come. Again people don’t come because of the stigma. People feel that if you suffer from depression or anxiety or if you attempt suicide or if you talk about your problems something is wrong, you are weak so they do not come to seek help. We should be seeing a bigger number because for every suicide you normally see ten attempts. For now what we are seeing are lower number of attempts but we have the number of suicide there. We want them to come to the clinics to be assessed if they have drug problems, alcohol problems, or depression – there is treatment for these types of problems.”

The conference continues tomorrow.