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Govt seeks answers to Gib’s high suicide rate

Image by Rudy and Peter Skitterians from Pixabay

The Gibraltar Government has stepped up its efforts to better understand why Gibraltar has a high number of male suicides.

The government has established a multi-disciplinary working group tasked with analysing what drives a person to take their own life.

In tandem, the government also aims to improve mechanisms for early intervention and support with the aim of prevention.

The issue was raised yesterday on International Men’s Day by Samantha Sacramento, the Minister for Equality, who recently set up a working group of stakeholder agencies to coordinate knowledge of suicide and attempted suicides.

The group will look beyond mental health and consider significant elements which may impact on a person’s life to the extent that makes them feel suicidal.

The working group will collaborate to strengthen services, including consulting with support groups, individuals and their relatives all of whom will play a vital role in informing this process.

There will also be early intervention with children so as to develop their coping mechanisms as they grow older.

Separately, Chief Minister Fabian Picardo has also set up an inter-ministerial committee made up of the Minister for Equality, Minster for Health, the Minister for Public Health, the Minster for Education and the Minister for Youth.

“Each person who passes away due to suicide is someone’s mother, father, brother, sister or daughter and their death will be devastating,” Mr Picardo said.

“Quite often, it will come as a shock, leaving a deeper sense of loss and making it all the more difficult for family members to recover.”

“The reality is that the reasons for suicide are complex and are difficult to establish and the working together of the key stakeholder professionals will enable us to give the solution from a different perspective.”

“The truth is that we do not talk about this subject enough, stigma makes it embarrassing or frightening to open up to others. We need to build people’s confidence so that opening up does not feel so overwhelming.”

“I am grateful for all the charity groups that provide support, particularly GibSams, who in the relatively short period of time since the charity was established, have engaged very effectively and run significant awareness campaigns.”

“The aim now is to review all processes and achieve a more joined-up and holistic strategy, which we hope will be more effective and will result in the reduction of suicides locally,” the Chief Minister added.

“It is for this reason that I have also set up an Inter-Ministerial committee that I will chair to ensure that all aspects are considered at the highest level.”

The working group was triggered by Ms Sacramento as part of ongoing work on gender equality and issues that affect men, but it will look at all incidents of suicide and attempted suicides.

“Suicidal thoughts are more frequent than people realise, but the vast majority will not go to take their own life,” Ms Sacramento said.

“All suicides are of course concerning and I am particularly concerned that this seems to predominantly affect men.”

“I am grateful to the Ministry for Equality for focusing the minds of all professionals and setting up the working group to look into this matter.”

The government did not offer any statistical data to illustrate the scale of the issue, but anecdotal evidence collected by Gibsams suggests at least one case of attempted suicide a week.

Marielou Guerrero, the founder and chairwoman of Gibsams, yesterday welcomed the government’s initiative, which she said would help coordinate efforts to provide support to those who need it.

TG calls for review of mental health legislation

Together Gibraltar yesterday urged a full review of the Mental Health Act in consultation with health experts.

The party also called for provide precise recording and access to statistics that will enable to appropriately deal with emergency mental health and discharge processes, and to continue with appropriate long term after care support.

In a statement, Together Gibraltar welcomed the proposals brought forward by Samantha

Sacramento, Minister for Equality, on the launch of a consultation process to deal with parental alienation, reaching out to schools to talk about gender stereotypes and looking into the high rates of male suicide.

“Men are more likely to be victims of violence and less likely to report sexual abuse, rape and domestic violence,” TG said in a statement.

“Men also suffer challenges faced as parents particularly new fathers and separated fathers and this is not often talked about openly.”

“Men in general are less likely to acknowledge illness or seek medical help for both physical and mental health illnesses.”

“Due to our culture, men are less prone to talk about their feelings leading to mental health issues.”

TG said it was vital to challenge traditional gender stereotypes from an early age within the educational system, sending the message that gender was not a barrier to inclusivity.

And it suggeste too that “an increasing number” of young men with mental health issues were taking their own lives for a variety of different reasons.

“Sometimes these suicides are not even acknowledged, with doctors writing ‘accidental death’ on death certificates,” TG said.

“By sweeping it under the carpet we keep pretending it is not happening and nothing tangible is being done.”

“Mental health has been neglected in Gibraltar for far too long and awareness and data visibility is lacking.”

“This has pushed those affected to an even greater vulnerability and allowed the problem to get progressively worse after decades of mismanagement.”

“The human cost to mental health is huge with the ultimate price being loss to life.”

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