‘Four or more a week’; Psychiatrist alarmed by high attempted suicide rate


OBSERVER: According to the World Health Organization, each year more than 700,000 people take their own life after many suicide attempts, and for every suicide there are likely 20 other people making such an attempt and many more having serious thoughts about it.

In Antigua and Barbuda, Dr Chenelle Joseph, a specialist in internal medicine and psychiatry, said she receives about four clients each week between the ages of 25 and 45 who have tried to take their own life.

“I don’t have any statistics for Antigua. What I do have is the number of suicide attempts I would see, which is about four or more individuals per week.

“The most common way is medication overdose but there is also self-inflicting injury usually by cutting. There have been a few attempting hangings,” she told the Observer AM show.

The number of suicides in Antigua and Barbuda over the last couple of years has sparked concern locally.

Dr Joseph, who has a private psychiatry practice in Long Street, St John’s, was speaking to mark September’s Suicide Awareness Prevention Month.

She continued that 80 percent of her clients only seek help after they have already tried to end their life.

In fact, she said, “The medication overdoses they come in because they don’t feel well, they are having severe pain or they are vomiting continuously and so they really come in to get rid of the discomfort.

“There’ve been unfortunately some severe cases where these persons were found and had to be brought in unresponsive by family or EMTs so first they require medical help, get them stable, and sometimes I get consulted to determine whether it is safe for them to go home or whether it may be best for them to go to Clarevue or something in between,” Joseph added.

She went on to share some of the main causes of suicide in the country.

“An overwhelming feeling of hopelessness and it usually stems from social issues, marital conflicts, financial struggles are a big one, poor support. So, a lot of these individuals are struggling with an issue and friends aren’t really paying attention or notice,” she said.

“Family may not notice or they’ll downplay it; just get over it or you’ll be fine or just go to church, without really touching base with them to see what’s going on, tell me more, how can I help. So, a lot of people resort to attempting suicide because they feel like it’s the only way out. It’s the only way that’s gonna give them some relief.”

The expert then called on the government to take charge of the growing problem.

“We need more investment, more interest from the government level. Mental health is a human right; most civilised countries offer mental health resources through the government. Yes, there are private psychiatrists and therapists but you need to have an option that people can afford.”

Joseph added that she has reached out to the necessary authorities to express her concerns but she either doesn’t hear back or is given excuses.

Acting Chief Medical Officer Dr Teri-Ann Joseph said public discussion on suicide was crucial.

“Statistics show that every 40 seconds someone somewhere in the world will die by suicide,” she told Observer.

“Suicides are preventable and it’s OK to have a conversation about it. It’s also important to look out for warning signs that someone is thinking about it, for example saying things like ‘no one will miss me when I’m gone’, giving away prized possessions, or saying goodbye to loved ones.”

Dr Joseph advised friends and family of a suicidal person to let them know they are there for them and that they care, and to encourage them to seek professional help.

“If you think someone is in immediate danger take them to the Emergency Room at the hospital,” she said.

“You can also reach out to Clarevue Psychiatric Hospital to speak to one of the mental health nurses there; it’s a 24/7 facility. There are also mental health nurses available at the community clinics,” Dr Joseph added.

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  1. Life hard in Antigua
    At work its bullying and square pegs At school its bullying and peerpressure In general people broker than before, illhealth creeps in and incompetent fools run the show.

    • You really think that’s all? It’s a cultural thing. Your son comes crying to you about a problem and we tell him to toughen you and call him anti-man. That boy from then on bottles up his feelings and doesn’t know who to express or handle stress. Same thing happens to girls. We ignore then and tell him to grow up. They then turn to a man who they think loves them but only ends up beating or sexually abusing them. We don’t hug our children because we ourselves weren’t hugged.

      At the end of the day….stop blaming the incompetent fools and hug your kids. Love your kids and parent your kids because when your child commits suicide, it’s not the incompetent fools fault that you didn’t parent your child/children and nurture them into adults.

      • “… it’s a cultural thing”.

        How condescending @ Love your kids. I don’t know what type of household you currently have, but I ensured that my children were not afraid to talk openly about their feelings.

        As they are now adults there is a mutual respect.

        I will agree with you though that the older generation had issues with showing their feelings and love, but that wasn’t a cultural thing, that was more of a generational habit with most of the elderly – However, there is a wind of change!

        Open dialect – with respect – has always been my mantra.

        However, I do appreciate your point of view.

      • I dont think its a blame game…simply put, there are many reasons…and you pointed put one.

        Covid showed us that we can live without hugs but everyone needs oxygen to live. We can live without love but we cant live without food.

        Broke and heartbroken, we trod on
        Bring back the hugs, bring back the kisses
        Eat dinners
        Be alone Be together
        Put down the cellphones
        Take care of an animal in need
        Put the square pegs in the square openings
        Do whatever works for you (hugs, music, dance), but never ever miss a chance to be human: be kind one to another, tenderhearted, and forgiving one another.

    • My brother, u r correct
      I think covid was raging while this doctor came to practice. Covid really hurt hard.

  2. Son of Mami_Wata & Papa_Elegba CHRISTened #Jumbee_Picknee(Spirit_Child) at life’s #CrossRoad(☠️⚔️🤞🏾☦️) of SWASTIKA & SQUARE says….

    …it seems like the road to perdition,
    …‘tis becoming more and more slippery
    …as, stress and strife are hovering over the Nation
    …like a storm cloud, ready to burst forth
    …with a ferociousness
    …‘causing a mess, and having many in distress
    …so, can someone tell me
    …how can this be⁉️
    …when, they’re living in a PowerHouse Country
    …where money is falling like heavenly manna
    …from some invisible tree
    …that, they can’t even find workers
    …to fill thousands of vacancies
    …in the Tourism and Construction Industry’s!


  3. I’m still new on this forum but it seems to me that you folks still have a mostly monolithic society. Sitting american politicians are calling for the assignation of millions of citizens with whom they disagree. This country is as if not more divided than it has been since the Civil War.
    It seems to me that, if shit gets too overwhelming that there is compassion enough on Antigua for you to talk with someone, perhaps someone you don’t even know.
    Think about it, it isn’t worth sacrificing your life for.

  4. The ministry of health is partly responsible for the spike in new cases of mental illness in this country. The lockdowns, the social pressure to be jabbed, the constant bombardment of numbers showing covid cases have taken a tremendous toll on the population. More people are using drugs than ever before, unemployment is through the roof, people are living in poverty right here on this island. Many are suffering in silence, especially the healthcare workers.

    • Dear Alkebulan, the minister and cabinet made mandates, I hope the technical staff did not have a hand in the mandates
      The mental health support for publicly funded initiatives failed in covid. Mental health failed during covid cause there was too much sweeping under the carpet. Instead of understanding the crisis, they were trying to “ NEVER let a GOOD crisis go to waste” Enrichment and Elevation were the order of the day


    THEN THE “ABC’s”

    Many Health Care Workers were OVERLY exploited during covid
    – FACT
    Some worked for country Others worked for the potential payoff – FACT

    The money gotten from overpriced Covid testing should have been taxed, so all could benefit and not just those who had plenty free time while others were slaving!!!!

    IF WE COULD TURN BACK TIME, WE WOULD HAVE BEEN MORE DISCERNING- the queen and her empire gat nothing on black against BLACK!!!

  6. Life is harder for the young people, many has also turn to drugs to get away from reality. I remember back in my day when we finish school jobs were readily available but not now. So much more is required of them for so little. They are pressured to get a college degree and most are influence by what happen on social media. They need to know once there is life there is hope.

  7. life is harder for which young people? They have Internet, indoor bathrooms, big screen TVs, latest sneakers and clothes, Facebook, Cellphones, Instagram and “rights of the child”

    • What a terrible generalisation, maybe the young people that you know, but I can assure you that the youth of today are having to pay for their education (whereas the “baby boomers” did not), getting on the housing ladder is nigh on impossible, and employers are exploiting the with low wages or “zero hours” contracts.

      I can tell you are either middle-aged, an elderly senior citizen or just plain heartless.


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