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Coping with Suicide – a 12th BIFF perspective

By William Ysaguirre
Freelance Reporter

The 12th Belize International Film Festival had a soft opening with the screening of the film: “El Sonido de Las Cosas, (The Sound of Things”) byCosta Ricandirector Ariel Escalante, at the Bliss Institute for the Performing Arts in Belize City on Wednesday evening, November 8. The film addresses the issue of suicide and how the survivors cope with the loss of a loved one.

The film’s protagonist – Claudia is left numb by suicide of her cousin, who was her bosom companion, and she has to go on living. Escalante’s film examines how she gradually returns to normalcy with the help of family and friends. Escalante highlights this solitude and depression by color, most of the movie scenes are blues and greys.

Under the draconian laws Belize inherited from the former colonial government of British Honduras, suicide was once a criminal offence, Mrs. Kathy Esquivel of the Belize Mental Health Association, explained in the panel discussion after the movie. The Association has since lobbied for with government to amend the laws, and attempted suicide is no longer a crime.

Psychologist Aimee Jexnoted that while suicide may be perceived to be a problem affecting rich, developed economies of the world, 78 per cent of suicides worldwide occur in low and middle income countries. In Belize, where we average two successful suicides per month! It is the second leading cause of death among young people ages 15 to 29 years of age, in Belize 29 per cent of suicides are in the 15-29 age bracket, while 35 per cent are between 30 to 44 years of age.

Worldwide, the ingestion of pesticides is the leading method of suicide, with hanging second and the use of a firearm is third; while in Belize hanging is the most common method of suicide, hanging is second and by firearm is third. For those who attempt suicide but are stopped in time, the most common method was by pesticide, with stabbing with a sharp weapon or knife as second, and hanging was third.

By sex, women attempt suicide twice more often than men, but the men outnumber the women 4 to one among the fatalities: four out of five successful suicides are men. In an effort to reduce these numbers, the Association offers counselling to anyone in difficult or vulnerable situations, through conflict, violence or abuse, individuals who feel isolated or depressed, orthose suffering from alcohol abuse. Other victims often include migrants, people of the LGBT community and prisoners. Jex noted that common stressors are financial problems, relationship conflicts, or the pain of an illness.

The panel included the testimony of two survivors: movie producer Mary Anne Fletcher shared how she felt and dealt with the pain of her husband killing himself; while BDF soldier Roland described who he found God in his life as the road to recovery from his attempted suicide; he also shared the aloneness he felt and the difficulty he had in talking about his problems with anyone before he attempted suicide, but he affirmed that clearly God had a purpose for him on this Earth, in that he was found in time and brought back from the brink of death.
The Film festival’s galaopening on Thursday night, November 9, featured the screening of the movie “Inheritance:’ from American directors Jessica Kaye and Laura Davis, which was shot entirely on location in Belize with a Belizean crew and many Belizeans actors in supporting roles.

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