In a strongly worded diatribe, Peppi Azzopardi tackles the subject of suicide and invokes the fate of young Kim Borg Virtu and another 13 victims of a heartless prison system that could have prevented these deaths.
He also appeals for empathy when we meet people passing through a dark time.
“There are too many suicides, what are we going to do about it?” Azzopardi starts his heartfelt appeal by cautioning that suicide rates are increasing.
“But first I want to commemorate Kim, who today will mark two years since she passed away.”
“Kim used to take drugs, and the magistrate sent her to jail. And the magistrate asked the previous directors to see what they could do, to get this 29 year old off drugs. Kim wanted to go to Caritas, and they had space for her. They were willing to accept her and take her in. But the cruel administration of the prison in those days refused to let her go! Then she hung herself in her cell. On her birthday. She had just turned 30.”
He goes on to say that, with Kim, under that same administration, 13 other prisoners ended up dead, in their cell. And it was as if nothing happened.
While some try to rationalise that it is normal that in prison people get alienated and try to kill themselves, Azzopardi points out that 14 is a very large number.
He compares this to the fact that there hasn’t been another suicide since the administration was changed. He attributes this to the fact that before they did not care what happened to the prisoner. At least these days there is an attempt to help each other.
“At least, out here we can take care of each other, and so should we do.”
Azzopardi recounts that he is hearing lots of stories of persons who would have told somebody that they are tired of living and want to end it.
He emphasises that when someone mentions that they have dark thoughts and are contemplating suicide the most important thing is to hear them not ignore them as if nothing happened. We need to talk to them even about suicide.
“I remember, I was on Facebook, and this woman, who I don’t even know started saying that she had enough, she was tired of living. I called Daniela, from the Richmond Foundation, and later she called me back and said, ‘Pep, we have saved a life, thank God you called.'”
“Sometimes all they need is someone to hear them, so they feel understood.”
He cautions that when these people seem distressed wanting to end it all and suddenly they relax, like it’s over. “Often it’s not over. That is the time when they decide when and how they are going to commit suicide.”
Peppi recommends a course called Mental Health First Aid at The Richmond Foundation.
Persons who are in crisis can approach the Accident and Emergency department at Mater Dei Hospital or Primary Health Department and seek help from Mental Health Service professionals.
People passing through difficult moments and contemplating Suicide, as well as survivors of these tragic events, can seek help from available services: Suicide Prevention, Outreach and Therapeutic (SPOT) services by appointment on 2122 8333 (Victim Support Malta), Supportline 179 (FSWS), 1770 (Richmond Foundation) and 1579 (Mental Health Helpline)
Anonymous chats such as kellimni.com, Olli chat or Krizi are also an option. One can contact the family doctor or health centre or by speaking to a person of trust.
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