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Of human compassion

With the country having recorded almost half a dozen suspected suicides in recent weeks, we believe it is time for Barbadians generally to sit up and take note of what’s taking place around them.

Most of the deaths were highlighted by the media and we do not believe it helps the cause of the impacted families by offering a running list of the dead at this stage. We also wish to be careful because we do not want anything we say in this article to be construed as a criticism or indictment of anyone connected with any of the unfortunate victims.

What we will state, however, is that when this number of Barbadians for any reason believe that they have no alternative but to end their lives, we should all be concerned.

All across the island countless citizens are under pressure. The impact of the global recession and the way we have managed our affairs is being felt. In both the private and public sector workers have been laid off, while in other instances business owners/operators have opted for reduced pay or hours to ensure individuals who have served them faithfully are not totally cut off.

We know that it is generally recognised that many problems that start off as economic tightness in a household can quickly turn into crises of a totally different character, manifesting themselves in outcomes that on the surface appear to have no relation to finance.

Under the current circumstances, we believe it is time for certain individuals and groups with specific expertise to start to show a greater community-minded spirit.

We know it is how they make their living, and that to “give away” their skills would also put them under greater financial strain, but our counsellors (in the broad gamut of disciplines) have to find ways to offer advice to the country, whether through community groups, church arms, their own town hall-type meetings or whatever other mechanism through which they can reach the population.

Our economic society and consumer groups need to challenge news organisation to make space and time available to them so they can reach out to the communities with their advice on coping under the current circumstances. Our medical professionals, particularly those who deal with mental health issues, now have a greater responsibility to ensure that families can recognise signs of depression or any other condition that amounts to a warning sign.

We cannot continue to watch our young and middle-age people who, all things being equal should still have lots of productive, meaningful years ahead of them, end their lives with a gulp of some poison or at the end of a rope.

Warning signs

As we said at the beginning, we do not know the stories of the individuals who ended their own lives in recent weeks, but we are willing to bet that in most of the cases the warning signs would have been there, but very likely those who saw them never came close to recognising them.

When an individual has relationship problems, unprecedented debt pressure, the despair of losing a job, the discovery of a life-changing medical condition, rejection by loved ones etc.,., we may not be able to reverse the circumstances that led to their pain, but with the right intervention we might be able to push back against the sense of hopelessness that could lead to fatal action.

In the current pressure cooker that characterises so many aspects of life in Barbados for so many of our citizens, we all have a duty like never before to be neighbourly — in the Biblical sense. We can fight our political battles, but in the end this is not about Bees or Dems, but about our character as a society and how much we value life and each other.

If these recent suicides have not touched us all, then it is very possible we are losing, or have already lost, an essential characteristic that for so long we took for granted as defining us as Bajans. It’s time for a national outreach — it is time to reassert that human compassion that Barbadians of a past generation so ably displayed.

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