(PRESS RELEASE) – One suicide is one too many, 203 is there to help. This is the call from Dr. Julius Gillard of the St. Lucia National Mental Wellness Centre who is on a campaign to reduce the incidents of suicide on the island.
Suicide, the act of intentionally causing one’s own death has many risk factors, including substance abuse, alcoholism, schizophrenia, mental disorders such as depression among others.
The St. Lucia National Mental Wellness Centre is the lead institution on island caring for persons exhibiting suicidal tendencies.
Consultant Psychiatrist, Dr. Julius Gillard believes that the public is not sufficiently aware of the help available or what they should do when persons express or exhibit suicidal behaviour.
“I know persons may feel that the rate of suicide is beginning to get out of hand. What must be understood is that a lot of persons do not know about the helpline. So if you are with somebody and you cannot ensure their safety you need to at least pass them onto somebody who can do so. So if it’s a family member let the family member know what the person has expressed and that they should stay with that person, keep an eye on that person until they see a professional. You can as well call 203. Call 203 and get their assistance because they have procedures in place to handle situations like that with somebody who expresses suicide. So the objective here is to keep the person safe until they get to see a professional who can advise them on the best way forward from there, to make suicide a less attractive option for them.”
The 203 helpline has come under fire from some members of the public who question the effectiveness of having a helpline. Dr. Gillard indicated that the helpline has been very effective.
“Without the helpline the suicide rate would probably be in the hundreds. Yes we still have suicide and yes our objective is zero but we are there the help and what persons need to do instead of bashing it is to let persons know about its existence. Because, what I am see is that a lot of persons don’t know of its existence and when they go through that period of hopelessness they have nowhere to turn to. So if they know about the helpline, they know that they have somewhere to turn to that they can get help.”
The Consultant Psychiatrist added that there is still much stigma attached to psychiatry in St. Lucia which may have been the result of what occurred in the past where persons with mental illness were treated very inhumanly as if they were the illness. Dr. Gillard aims to reduce this stigma.
“We’re in 2017 and there is a great shift in the field of psychiatry where the focus of treatment is not the alleviation of symptoms but rather improvement of functioning of persons with mental illnesses. So the stigma now must be tackled because that’s the main issue impeding the improvement of psychiatric services anywhere around the world.”
Dr. Gillard recently carried this message of hope to a mental wellness symposium at the Belle Vue Combined School where he spoke on the topic of mental wellness, suicide and depression.