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Group calls for more research on suicides

Painful loss: Chris Gibbons with his late daughter Jessica

A support group set up by a father whose daughter took her own life has called for more data to be made publicly available about suicides in Bermuda.

Losing Someone by Suicide has urged authorities to conduct more research into suicides and attempts on the island to raise awareness and determine what services are needed.

The call follows a parliamentary question from Progressive Labour Party MP, Walton Brown, that appeared on last week’s Orders asking whether the Registry General was collecting statistics on suicides.

Since 2010, the Coroner’s Office has recorded 19 deaths by suicide, but LOSS founder Chris Gibbons believes the statistics only “tell part of the story”.

“It should be noted that this figure does not include Bermudians or residents who may have died by suicide overseas,” Mr Gibbons said.

“It also does not include deaths where evidence of suicide was not conclusive and consequently ruled as death by misadventure or accidental death. Furthermore, the figure of 19 does not include deaths by fatal overdoses of illegal drugs or alcohol by addicts or alcoholics who have expressed suicidal thoughts. In such cases, it is often impossible to conclude whether the act was intentional or not.”

Mr Gibbons’s 25-year-old daughter Jessica committed suicide on April 3 last year at her family home in Devonshire.

He formed LOSS to provide a safe place for those affected by suicide to speak openly and share experiences. He is now embarking on a project to compile statistics about suicides himself.

“Because there is so little official data available, I am asking members of the public to help me compile information on suicides by Bermudians, here or overseas, and residents over the past 25 years,” Mr Gibbons said.

“I am hoping that this information may help Government or other agencies with future suicide prevention measures.

“Family members willing to give me the name and age of their lost loved one and the date of their suicide, or suspected suicide, can e-mail me at gib.chris@gmail.com.

“The names of both the deceased and those submitting the information will be kept strictly confidential.”

LOSS meets every Wednesday between 6pm and 7.30pm at Solstice in Falconer House on Pitts Bay Road. The group has a Facebook page and plans to launch a website next month that will include practical help and advice on suicide bereavement as well as links to resources such as videos, books and websites.

LOSS has no membership requirements or fees and is open to anyone who has been bereaved by suicide whether they have lost a parent, partner, sibling, child, friend or work colleague

Mr Gibbons added: “The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention conservatively estimates that for every completed suicide, there are 25 suicide attempts. There are no official statistics in Bermuda, as far as I am aware, on the number of suicide attempts but global trends suggest that a significant number of Bermudians, particularly young adults, may be at risk.

“The World Health Organisation estimates that each year approximately one million people die from suicide, a rate of 16 people per 100,000 or one death every 40 seconds. It predicts that by 2020 the rate of death will increase to one every 20 seconds. In the last 45 years suicide rates have increased by 60 per cent worldwide and suicide is now among the three leading causes of death among males and females aged 15-44.

“We have seen an increasing number of news stories in other countries, for example, of young people who have become depressed and taken their own lives as a result of being bullied.

“In Bermuda, I look at the frequency of school beatings, callously filmed and shared online by onlookers, along with bullying on social media and I wonder how many of our children are suffering in silence and shame and may be at great risk.”