General — 14 September 2019 — by Albert J. Ciego
Suicide Prevention Flag raised at Wesley College

BELIZE CITY, Mon. Sep. 9, 2019– World Suicide Prevention Day will be observed in Belize on Tuesday, September 10. It is a day of hope, to remind the public that no one should die by suicide, that those who desire to take their lives can be helped.

The theme for this year’s suicide prevention day activities is “Working Together to Prevent Suicide.”

Today, Monday, September 9, the Suicide Prevention Day Flag was raised during a ceremony at Wesley College on Yarborough Road in Belize City, and flags will also be raised at high school compounds throughout the country, at small ceremonies.

About 400 students from four high schools of Belize City’s Southside —Wesley College, Maude Williams High School, Gwen Liz High School and Anglican Cathedral College — attended the suicide prevention talk at the Wesley College basketball court prior to the flag-raising ceremony.

Speeches and presentations were made and a panel of 6 students were asked questions and they gave a wide range of answers about suicide.

The students at the ceremony were sensitized to suicide. They were reminded that the highest rate of suicide has been among teenagers ages 14 to 19. They were also reminded that suicide is an impulsive act triggered by a variety of factors, which can include being bullied, intimate relationships that ended, financial problems, low self-esteem, and feelings of loneliness and rejection, among many other factors.

The students were reminded that suicide is not the answer.

Over the past 10 years, 400 persons in the country attempted suicide. Last year, 31 persons lost their lives due to suicide, and for this year so far, 7 persons have lost their lives.

Aimee Jex, president of the Mental Health Unit, said that in line with the theme of working together to prevent suicide, we must never promise to keep a bad situation a secret. If any person we know needs help, we will help them get the assistance needed, or do what’s necessary to prevent them from taking their lives.

If we hear our friends say, “I am tired of living, or “I want to die,” the person is communicating that all is not well, and is seeking help, and we should not take it lightly, and should contact the Mental Health Unit or anyone who we believe can help in preventing the person from taking his or her own life.

After the talks, all the students and those present made a pledge to work together to prevent suicide, after which the students made their way to the Wesley College compound, where the Belize flag was first raised, after which the Suicide Prevention Flag was raised.

Juliet Simmons, the Mental Health counselor, said that they are working with the high school students to prevent suicide, since the suicide rate is the highest among persons in that age range. From September 10, Suicide Prevention Day, to October 10, Mental Health Day, activities targeting mental health and suicide prevention will be conducted at high schools, workplaces and other organizations.

Also, competitions will be held at the primary schools, high schools and colleges, and attractive prizes will be offered.

Primary school students will conduct suicide prevention drawings, high school students will write an essay and college students will make 3-minute presentations.

The administrator of the Mental Health Unit, Nurse Eleanor Bennett, was awarded during the ceremony for her hard work and dedication.

Nurse Bennett told us that it is important to recognize Suicide Prevention Day. She said that a major underlying factor for suicide is depression, which is very treatable. She said it is hoped that persons with suicidal thoughts, or persons who are depressed, will begin the conversation and seek help. She said the day is also set aside to remember those who died of suicide, and to keep in our thoughts families who lost loved ones to suicide.

During a discussion with us, Nurse Bennett said that the theme for this year’s upcoming Mental Health Day, celebrated on October 10, is “Suicide Prevention.”

The organizing committee for Suicide Prevention Day, recognizing that most suicide attempts are carried out by people of high school age, has decided to try something different by raising the flag at high schools this year.

Bennett said that after the flag is lowered, after September 10, the effort will continue to prevent suicide. Parents are advised to observe their children, to look for signs of depression, and to not be afraid to ask them if they are contemplating suicide.

She said that if parents observe changes in the behavior of their children, they should reach out, and take them to the clinic, or seek help.

Bennett said there are trained Mental Health nurses, at all major clinics throughout the country, and at the Mental Health Unit, and a 24-hour system is in place to help persons who are contemplating suicide or are suffering from mental issues.

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