Hearing the cries of our nation’s youth
There’s been a deafening silence about a tragedy that occurred in the heart of our island last Friday night.
16-year-old Chante Yarde apparently took her own life at her Britton’s Hill home. While many of us may never have crossed paths with her, it is nevertheless a loss to lament.
It’s heartrending that among us are those whose lives are so painful that such a distressing course of action seems the preferred solution.
Our hearts go out to her loved ones left behind, grieving over their loss
and the inevitable sense of guilt that they carry, wondering if they had missed any signs.
Suicide is difficult to write or talk about, for fear of evoking trauma, but talk about it we must, if only to save lives.
Hushed conversation has not helped and, in fact, reminds us that two years after the suicide of 12-year-old Shemar Weekes we have failed to confront this disquieting issue.
The reasons for suicide are complex and as varied as depression, financial problems, family conflict and abuse – physical, sexual or emotional. Experts also tell us there’s a common tread – experiencing mental health challenges, which is another taboo issue in this country.
Facebook posts made by Yarde told a tale of a teenager in distress, chief executive officer of Supreme Counselling for Personal Development Shawn Clarke told this media house.
Clarke, a qualified bullying prevention trainer and consultant, suggested the teenager might have been a victim of bullying.
“I would have been privileged to have a look at the young lady’s Facebook page and what I saw there, I could tell that as far back as April or May 2016, this young lady would have been posting a number of things that would indicate that she was extremely depressed. She was crying out for help. A lot of images about being extremely low-keyed. I saw one asking, ‘would I be missed if I died?’; those kinds of things. So you can see this is a young lady who was depressed for a long time and it’s sad that adults or those on her page never saw the need to look into her posts and find out why she was making such posts and find out what is going on with her.”
Today we heard from the Acting Director of the Psychiatric Hospital David Leacock that mental health issues are very real among this island’s young people.
He reported more and more youth have been seeking help from that institution, but lamented that too many were coming when it was almost too late because of stigma and discrimination.
“Sometimes we see them at the end of the road. . . . Parents admit they won’t bring the children because they are ashamed that their children have mental health issues; they think it reflects on them negatively.”
This mindset is outdated and talking about the problem is one way to help.
There is no shame in having mental health issues. A cancer patient or a diabetic is not ashamed to turn to a medical professional to improve his or her well-being. It’s perfectly natural for anyone experiencing mental health challenges to turn to those qualified to guide them to better health.
We have a responsibility as parents, teachers, brothers, sisters, friends, co-workers and neighbours to steer those who need help to the hands of those who can.
Some may argue we should not invade the privacy of others, but should we turn a blind eye at the risk of another pointless loss of life?
We can hardly afford to ignore the tell-tale signs – casual conversation about wanting to die, excessive sadness, mood swings, withdrawal or changes in personality or appearance.
As a society, we need to reach out and embrace each other more and break down the walls that surround this sensitive issue – and talk.
As difficult a subject as it may be, it might be the only way to save a life.