Barbados suicide rate could be seriously underestimated due to a lack of adequate up to date data. This was the suggestion coming from executive director of the American Association of Suicidology, Dr Alan Berman, as he addressed a roundtable discussion this afternoon at the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies on the issue.
Berman, a clinical pyschologist, said Barbadians were in the dark as to whether or not suicide prevention was a major public health problem, as in other countries which have proper statistics on the matter.
“Suicide prevention is a major public health problem. I don’t know that it is a major public health problem in this country, and the reality is, you don’t know either . . . because we don’t have very new data on what is going on here,” the expert said. He pointed out, though, that it was a major public health problem throughout the world, noting that there were about one million suicides globally every year. He said there might be 20 times that number of suicide attempts annually.
Berman told his audience that the most recent data on suicides in Barbados was from the WHO seven years ago.
“The rates in Barbados have been all over the place, from 1965 and 2006. But note that that graph ends in 2006, that’s seven years ago. We don’t have any data beyond 2006 from this country,” he argued.
Those statistics, he added, showed that the male rate was considerably higher than the female one. The psychologist stated that this was common throughout the world except in China.
“You will also note that the red line [pointing to a graph], since the average in inclusive of both men and women, generally has been between one and six per 100,000 across those many years, with wide variations,” continued the doctor. Berman concluded that the rates in Barbados were generally low compared to other countres.
“In the United States the average rate is 12 per 100,000. It’s half of what it is in the States. But it all depends on what year you look at . . . because in 1990, the rate was six per 100,000 and the rate for males was over ten per 100,000.”
In examining the 2006 data for Barbados, it showed a consistency with male suicides as against females and the rates were highest among the elderly. That, too, he noted, was common among most Western countries.
“But the reality is, Barbados for some reason, has relatively low rates. Males in 2006 had a rate of 7.3 per 100,000 . . . . It appears that Barbados and St Vincent and the Grenadines have similar rates; but not very far from here, there are countries with much, much higher rates,” Berman declared.
“If this is true,” the psychlogist reasoned, “we might want to look at what good is going on here that the rates are kept so low, compared to countries not far away.”
He suggested that it may be true that the rates in Barbados were generally low, that more males committed suicide and that older men were at greater risk . . . but he also claimed, that none of these notions may be true at all.
“Why? We don’t know if Barbadians are collecting good data, since we have nothing since 2006. Who knows what’s going on,” Berman exclaimed. (EJ)