This year, World Mental Health Day (WMHD) will be observed in T&T with the theme “Suicide Prevention” and will be commemorated by the Ministry of Health (MoH) with the Paint de Town Green campaign.
Someone recently asked why ‘green’. Simply, lime green is the colour used for the Global Mental Health Advocacy Campaign.
Last year, the NGO CreateBetterMinds, of which I am a part, partnered with the MoH, PAHO/WHO, and numerous stakeholders to launch the inaugural Paint de Town Green in Port-of-Spain. I was honoured to be the featured speaker on the theme, “Young people and mental health in a changing world.”
The vision from my first thought of this campaign has been a sea of green in every town, street, office, building façade, every year on October 10, when, with countries globally, we observe WMHD—a day of advocacy and for starting mental health conversations.
About 2011/12, in the earliest days of organising my self-advocacy into some kind of a national dialogue, I happened on the idea of painting the town green, inspired by 3Canal’s powerful display of painting the town blue, more than a decade before.
My partner at CreateBetterMinds, Dr Yansie Rolston, whom I met soon after, brought the campaign to life in 2018 inspired by her international work and her intimate involvement in the UK with the Grenfell Tower debacle and the subsequent marches and demonstrations in seas of green memorialising one of the worst imaginable human tragedies.
This year, under the same banner, with the theme Suicide Prevention, the MoH will observe WMHD on October 11, at an event at the Gulf City Mall, La Romaine.
Suicide prevention is everyone’s business, and be assured, it is possible to know if someone is contemplating suicide. But that requires one to be tuned in to the friendship and to know what to listen for in peoples’ conversations.
This year, the news of Karlene Ali’s death by suicide came to me out of left field and literally floored me. Karlene and I became friends when I moved back to Moruga in 2010. She was very special to me and though she was the age of my nieces that was no barrier for our friendship.
Having moved north for school in 2015, I saw her infrequently on visits to Moruga and the last two occasions we had missed each other. I am still working on my grief. Since her demise, I have replayed the many conversations I wanted to have with her. I feel so guilty for not asking more specific things because I did not want her to feel like I was prying.
A conversation about suicide is an uncomfortable one but very necessary if we are to help protect our loved ones.
Getting the suicide
The website www.suicideispreventable.org is one resource I find simple and helpful. Here’s some advice on how to get the conversation started:
Before starting a conversation with someone you are concerned about, be prepared. Have a list of crisis resources on hand. Practice what you will say. Plan the conversation for a time when you won’t be in a hurry and can spend time with the person.
Listen to the reasons the person has for both living and dying. Validate that they are considering both options and underscore that living is an option for them.
“I can imagine how tough this must be for you. I understand when you say that you aren’t sure if you want to live or die. But have you always wanted to die? Well, maybe there’s a chance you won’t feel this way forever. I can help.”
Ask the person if they have access to any lethal means (weapons, poisons, medications, etc) and help remove them from the vicinity. (Another friend, family member or law enforcement agent may need to Provide the person with the resources with which you have come prepared. If you feel the situation is critical, take the person to a nearby emergency room or call 811 (T&T).
Don’t ask in a way that indicates you want “No” for an answer. Don’t “egg on” the person to do it. Shouting in frustration or anger is the most dangerous thing you can do. The person may say that they don’t want you to tell anyone that they are suicidal—Don’t promise secrecy.
Say this instead: “I care about you too much to keep a secret like this. You need help and I am here to help you get it.”
Hashtags: #WorldSuicidePreventionDay #SuicidePrevention #WSPD2019 #WSPD
Caroline C Ravello is a strategic communications and media professional and a public health practitioner. She holds an MA with Merit in Mass Communications (University of Leicester) and is a Master of Public Health With Distinction (The UWI).
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