Understanding suicide

Why do people take their own lives?

The Bermuda Government does not, as a matter of course, publish official figures on how many people in Bermuda take their own life every year or attempt to do so.

Research by LOSS reveals that since 2009, the Coroner's office has recorded 26* deaths in Bermuda by suicide. Between 2000 and 2017, the Bermuda Hospitals Board (BHB) admitted 472 cases of attempted or suspected suicide, including self-harm by injury and poisoning.

The true figure is certainly higher.

The Bermuda Coroner's Office has no jurisdiction on suicides by Bermudians or Bermuda residents that occur overseas and therefore these are not recorded in Bermuda statistics. LOSS estimates that the total number of Bermudians or Bermuda residents who have died by suicide during 2009-2018 to be at least 30.  The BHB statistics only reflect those cases that are actually admitted to hospital. The number of suicide attempts and cases of self-harm that are not admitted are simply not known.

While Bermuda has had at least one suicide a year since 2009, the Island is thankfully not seeing a rise in suicide deaths.  What remains consistent is that suicide occurs across all racial, ethnic and social backgrounds, age groups and gender and that every year it has a devastating and long-lasting impact on families, friends, workplaces and communities.  

For those left behind, a suicide brings more questions than answers. The thought of a loved one ending their life is incomprehensible and we search for reasons to explain it. The truth is, suicide is a very complex issue that can never be completely understood. Even if they left a note, it may not provide answers – it can be open to different interpretations or it may simply be impossible to comprehend and accept. Sadly, only the person who died knows the answers.

When someone takes their own life, it is usually because of several factors and circumstances rather than one single cause or incident.

The Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention states:

“Not all people who die by suicide have been diagnosed with a mental illness and not all people with a mental illness attempt to end their lives by suicide.

“People who experience suicidal thoughts and feelings are suffering with tremendous emotional pain. People who have died by suicide typically had overwhelming feelings of hopelessness, despair, and helplessness. Suicide is not about a moral weakness or a character flaw. People considering suicide feel as though their pain will never end and that suicide is the only way to stop the suffering.

“Many factors and circumstances can contribute to someone’s decision to end his/her life. Factors such as loss, addictions, childhood trauma or other forms of trauma, depression, serious physical illness, and major life changes can make some people feel overwhelmed and unable to cope. It is important to remember that it isn’t necessarily the nature of the loss or stressor that is as important as the individual’s experience of these things feeling unbearable.”

 
Could I have done something?

It is very common for those bereaved by suicide to feel guilty and ask if they could have done something to prevent it. Did we miss a sign or, if there were indications, should we have done more? We may be upset that the person didn’t come to us for help.  Survivors often say that even when someone had appeared troubled, they seemed to be getting better and were in a happy, positive mood in the days before they died.   

Blaming yourself is a common reaction but can be damaging to your health and recovery. As hard as it is to accept, we cannot be responsible for what happened, no matter how close we were to the person or how much we loved them.  

It is important to know that these questions and feelings are normal reactions to a suicide and that talking with others who share something of your experience can help you reach a place of relative peace and acceptance.


Talking about suicide

People affected by suicide are vulnerable and are often fearful of the reaction of other people. 
The language people use to talk about suicide is from a different time and can be hurtful and unhealthy. The word ‘commit’, for example, comes from a time when suicide was a crime. The more we can use language that accurately and sensitively describes suicide, the more we encourage a healthy and respectful way to talk about suicide. (adapted from BeyondBlue.org)










Suicide and the media

Suicide is a public health issue. How the media covers suicide can have a negative and positive effect - sensational reporting may lead to "copycat" behaviour while informed coverage can play a significant role in de-stigmatising suicide and encourage people to seek help.  If you work in the media, we ask you to follow the recommendations of ReportingOnSuicide.org

These recommendations were  developed by leading experts in suicide prevention and in collaboration with several international suicide prevention and public health organisations, schools of journalism, media organisations and key journalists as well as Internet safety experts.
 


Social media

Bermuda, like the rest of the world, has seen a disturbing increase in posts and comments that spread gossip and misinformation and show no sensitivity, empathy or compassion to family and friends of the deceased. 

Such behaviour only adds to the distress and trauma of the bereaved and can seriously impact their own mental and physical wellbeing.  Bermuda online safety website Cybertips graphically highlighted the problem in this article #PauseBeforeYouPost.

Any abuse or innappropriate posts should be reported immediately to the Police and the media or social media network concerned. See our page 
Dealing with the media.




   

​* as of December 31, 2018. Does not include suicides of Bermudians or residents while overseas, nor where evidence of suicide was inconclusive and death ruled as accidental or misadventure.
Avoid stigmatising terminology

Committed suicide
Successful suicide
Completed suicide
Failed attempt at suicide
Unsuccessful suicide
Use appropriate terminology

Died by suicide
Suicided
Ended his/her life
Took his/her life
Attempt to end his/her life