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Ministry of Health Contributes to Ongoing Discussion on Suicides

– Press Release – Ministry of Health, Government Press Office, Belmopan, May 4, 2015 – The Ministry of Health notes the widespread discussion in the media on the recent alleged suicides involving well-known Belizeans. As the country’s ministry responsible for mental health information and treatment, we would like to offer this press release as our contribution to the discussions on this very important issue.
Firstly, we would like to express our sincere condolences to the families and all others that have been affected by suicides in Belize.  Every person lost by suicide is a life filled with potential and possibility cut short.

While there is evidence that suicides are preventable, almost a million people worldwide still die from this condition every year. The Ministry recognizes that while we do not fully understand this condition, most experts have suggested that the factors are varied and complex. There is also very strong evidence to suggest that there are often multiple contributing factors including mental illness and substance abuse; and a person’s risk of suicide may increase with a painful loss, social isolation, feelings of hopelessness or being a burden to others, and may not be seeking help.

The Ministry recognizes that more must be done to connect with those who are suffering and contemplating suicide, especially those in our high risk group, specifically males who are between the ages of 25–65. Additionally, the Ministry has made some important advances towards this objective over the last few years by establishing mental health clinics at each district hospital. The clinics are staffed with trained mental health professionals that can assess at-risk individuals and provide the appropriate treatment.

Therapy and medications can assist in suicide prevention by treating underlying conditions such as mental illness and substance abuse. However, due to the taboo culture surrounding mental health illnesses, many people do not seek help because people fear being labeled and judged; but failure to discuss mental health issues, in particular suicidal feelings, can have devastating consequences to individuals and families.  

The Ministry would like to share the following list of signs which may indicate that a person is at risk for suicide:
1. Talking about wanting to die.
2. Looking for a way to kill oneself.
3. Talking about feeling hopeless or having no purpose.
4. Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain.
5. Talking about being a burden to others.
6. Increasing the use of alcohol or other drugs.
7. Acting anxious, agitated or recklessly.
8. Sleeping too little or too much.
9. Withdrawing or feeling isolated.
10. Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge.
11. Displaying extreme mood swings.

Tips for those concerned about a friend or loved one:
* Call the nearest Mental Health Clinic in your district
* Do not leave the person alone.
* Remove firearms, alcohol, drugs or sharp objects that could be used in a suicide attempt.
* Take the person to an emergency room or seek help from a medical or mental health professional.

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