September 25, 2020

Suicide is so preventable, says expert

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Licensed Mental Health Counsellor Pauline VanderGrinten

Originally from Wisconsin in the US, Licensed Mental Health Counsellor Pauline VanderGrinten currently has an outpatient practice and is the Behaviour Therapist at Hope Academy, a local school that specialises in helping children with above-average IQ’s and who may not receive the help they need in mainstream education. She has also been instrumental in setting up the Depression and Anxiety Foundation (DAF).

“As you know we were all touched by the suicides within the last year, being that often suicides are preventable and education and understanding of mental health is needed in Cayman. So it is the DAF’s mission to educate Cayman about mental illness,” she said

This week is National Suicide Prevention Week sponsored by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). AFSP is the leading US “national not-for-profit organisation exclusively dedicated to understanding and preventing suicide through research, education and advocacy, and to reaching out to people with mental disorders and those impacted by suicide.”

According to AFSP, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the US and already in this century there have been more than five million suicide deaths worldwide. This toll is higher than the total number of world deaths each year from war and homicide combined.

Suicide is an important health problem in many countries and is the leading cause of death amongst teens and young adults. The Cayman Islands are not immune from suicide deaths, many of us have been forever touched in some way by suicide
within our community.

Suicide is a serious public health problem having harmful effects on individuals, families, and communities. While the causes may be complex and multiple in factors, the goal of suicide prevention is to reduce risk factors, increase factors that influence resilience, develop effective prevention strategies to promote awareness of suicide and encourage commitment on all levels,
individual, relationship, community, and societal.

Suicide is tragic but often preventable. Most suicidal individuals give some warning of their intentions so the most effective way to prevent a suicide is to recognise the risk factors, take the warning seriously, and know how to respond. As society as a whole starts to recognise that suicide is the result of a medical condition, not a sign of weakness or character defect, the stigma surrounding mental illness will decrease and more individuals will receive the necessary treatment.

Since 90% of all people who commit suicide have a diagnosable mental illness, it is important to recognise that depressive disorders and alcohol/drug disorders are the most common mental illnesses related to suicide. And in depressed persons,
nearly one-half suffer from an anxiety disorder. Although most depressed people are not suicidal, most suicidal people are depressed. Suicide can be prevented through early recognition and treatment of depression and other psychiatric illnesses.

Here in Cayman, a new foundation is being developed, the Depression and Anxiety Foundation (DAF). The mission of DAF is to create public awareness and understanding of depression and anxiety to improve the lives of those affected by such illnesses. The goals of DAF are to promote societal change, destigmatise mental illness, increase\ treatment availability, and directly assist funding for those who cannot afford treatment. For more information on DAF, please email [email protected]

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