Calls for release of suicide statistics
A co-founder of a support group set up after his daughter took her own life said a failure to report suicide statistics reinforced the stigma associated with suicide.
Chris Gibbons, who helped create Losing Someone by Suicide in 2016, said: “In my opinion, to not do so contributes to the stigma that still surrounds mental health and suicide.
“As with other causes of death or conditions — such as road deaths, murders, diabetes or heart attacks — the public has a right to know how they are impacting our community and data is critical in forming Government policy.”
He added: “The more detailed information we can gather helps us understand more about why people attempt suicide and how we can develop better awareness and prevention measures or provide more funding to existing services.”
Mr Gibbons said every suicide is estimated to affect six people.
He added: “That adds up to a lot of people who, as a result, may well be suffering from depression, PTS, suicidal thoughts and so on.”
Mr Gibbons started compiling data about suicides in Bermuda after his 25-year-old daughter Jessica took her own life in April 2016.
Statistics from the Coroner’s Office show that 25 people in Bermuda have died by suicide since 2009 and data from Bermuda Hospitals Board shows that 324 people attempted suicide from 2000 to 2017.
A BHB spokeswoman added that nine people died at the hospital as a result of suicide — six had been admitted and three died in emergency.
Mr Gibbons said the Bermuda statistics show that “suicide affects every section of our society regardless of race, age or gender”.
But he said warned that the real number of Bermudians and residents who die by suicide was higher than the statistics showed because overseas deaths were not recorded by Bermuda’s coroner.
Mr Gibbons added: “At Loss we know of people who have died by suicide while at college, working abroad or while travelling but to the best of our knowledge there are no official figures.”
The support group appealed for more research into suicide and information about the problem to be made public in February last year.
The call came after Walton Brown asked in the House of Assembly if the Registry General was collecting statistics on suicides.
Mr Brown had also earlier questioned the absence of figures on suicides in the 2015 Registrar General’s report and said the island appeared to have “almost a conspiracy” not to report them.
But a spokeswoman from the Ministry of Home Affairs said last week that the Registry General did not collect suicide statistics and had not been asked to.
She added the Registry General’s main responsibility was to record events like births, deaths, marriages and adoptions — but not cause of death.
She said: “In Bermuda suicides are rare occurrences and a very sensitive topic to the decedent families, and not a matter of public record.”
The spokeswoman added that the Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit at the Ministry of Health did hold information on causes of death.
A health ministry spokesman highlighted the Health in Review 2017 report, which showed that Bermuda had fewer suicides among men, women and in total per 100,000 people than the average for Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries.
The report also listed suicide by percentage of deaths from external causes in Bermuda from 2006 to 2015.
The figures peaked at 12.9 per cent in 2010, but the report did not provide further information.
The spokesman added: “There is more cause of death information on our web site, although not on suicide specifically as it isn’t one of the major causes of death in Bermuda.”
Mr Gibbons said Loss would still like to hear from families who have lost loved ones to suicide.
He added: “Obviously suicide is a difficult subject in a small place like Bermuda but I think personal stories from survivors can help put a human face on bare statistics.
“They can be anonymous but I think they can really help others deal with the particular grief that results from a suicide.
“I would especially like to hear from people whose loved one suicided overseas as these are not recorded by the Bermuda Coroner, and also from families who received a misadventure verdict but have good reason to believe it was suicide.”
•Anyone who has attempted or has suicide should seek professional help or call the Mid-Atlantic Wellness Institute’s 24-hour hotline at 236-3770. For more information about Loss, visit www.loss.bm</i>