The Malta Independent 24 October 2021, Sunday

Crisis Resolution Malta appeals to government to implement suicide prevention strategy

Janet Fenech Sunday, 19 September 2021, 08:00 Last update: about 2 months ago

Crisis Resolution Malta hopes that the government will set aside funds in the upcoming budget to implement a national suicide prevention strategy, organisation leader Mark Xuereb told The Malta Independent.

This scientifically based strategy which seeks to implement a national tailor made approach to “grab the bull that is suicide by the horns” – is globally continually being urged by the World Health Organisation, Xuereb said.

Last week, as part of suicide prevention week, Crisis Resolution Malta (CRM) launched a suicide prevention campaign which saw suicide prevention messages on billboards around the island.

The “resoundingly successful” campaign saw the CRM team saving 30 lives of people who were contemplating suicide since September 5, noted Xuereb.

In just over a week mostly in the afternoon and late evening an average of 4 to 5 serious acute suicide cases a day were saved by CRM.

As Xuereb explained, these were “not vague intentions but these people had lost all hope to live and had set specific plans in motion”; some had written suicide notes, closed their bank accounts and/or their social media accounts.

Thus, the crises suicide prevention campaign confirms how the synergy between responsible media and crisis teams actually works, Xuereb told this newsroom.

Most of these people who were “at the end of their tether,” were between the ages of 20 and 40.

As Xuereb noted, in 2019 the government published a national mental health strategy, however despite being a great initiative in itself, it does not include a critical suicide prevention strategy that provides resources to better prevent people from taking their own lives. 

For example, Mater Dei Hospital still does not have a suicide crisis resolution team in its emergency department and the country does not yet carry out a yearly national audit on self-harm, said Xuereb.

He described how this suicide prevention strategy seeks to implement new infrastructure and more training to offer immediate help to those contemplating suicide, such as publicly available fluorescent telephone crisis hotlines at recurrently chosen suicide spots around the island, equipped with cameras so that crisis team members can immediately dispatch an emergency vehicle to offer help.

The strategy proposal includes a request for crisis team members to have blue flashing lights on their vehicles to be able to arrive and offer help as quickly as possible.

Xuereb emphasised that in order to “break the taboo on suicide and reinstate people’s will to live,” crisis team members must be “bold”; “asking people who are going through a hard time if they are okay is not enough. We need to be direct and ask if they have any thoughts on self-harm.”

Then, if so, the focus needs to be on resolution, continued support, so that no recurrent patterns emerge. 

According to Xuereb, Malta sees around four suicides a month. In quoting statistics from WHO, he noted how for every person who commits suicide, 20 to 25 people are attempting self-harm and that for every person who commits suicide, the likelihood of suicide increases for six other close relations to that person.

Thus, in order to truly make an impact on the reduction of suicide and self-harm in Malta and Gozo, Xuereb told this newsroom that much more needs to be done on a national level so that more people are made aware that suicide is not the answer and that life’s beauty lies in overcoming its challenges.

If you are in a time of crisis, felling suicidal or experiencing negative thoughts don't give in and switch off the light; call Crisis Resolution Malta on 99339966 or download the free 'KRIZI' app to speak to someone who can help.

  • don't miss