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World Suicide Prevention Day was celebrated on September 10, 2018 under the theme, ‘Working Together to Prevent Suicide’.
Upon thorough examination of the theme, at least three derivatives can be identified. First and foremost, that suicide is PREVENTABLE and is therefore an avoidable event. Secondly, the mention of WORK indicates that some amount of effort is necessary. To prevent suicide, there must be a willingness to make some sacrifices through WORK. And finally, that a team mentality is needed, that is, we have to do it TOGETHER.
Records released from the National Suicide Prevention Plan show that, four years ago, Guyana had the highest suicide rate per capita in the world,
an approximate suicide rate of 44.2/100,000. This meant that for every 100,000 Guyanese, about 45 of that amount died by suicide. This amount dropped to 24.63 out of every 100,000 persons. A total of 184 suicide deaths were recorded in 2017. Region Four, the most populated region with a
total amount of 311,563 persons, had the highest total number of suicides, but ranked 6th according to the rate per 100,000 population. Region Two, Pomeroon- Supenaam, had the highest suicide rate of 59.82 per 100,000 of the population and a total of 28 suicides. Mahaica-Berbice, Region Five, was next with 21 deaths and a suicide rate of 42.15 per 100,000. Cuyuni-Mazaruni, Region 7, had the 3rd highest suicide rate of 38.10 per 100,000 and a total of 7 suicides. The most deaths occurred in the 20-24 year age group followed by 15-19 years, then the 40-44 year category.
However, the highest rate, according to the specific population, occurred in the 60-64 age group.
Due to the fervent and cooperative works of Guyanese, the suicide rate has reduced and future plans have been made to ensure that the rate continues to decrease. Among the measures being implemented are research and the gathering of information regarding what issues actually trigger suicidal thoughts that lead to persons committing suicide.
Doctors, nurses, medics, psychologists and medical social workers are going through intense training to identify important mental health conditions in the early stages so that there will be more timely interventions that can prevent suicides. This ongoing plan also includes a self-harm
surveillance project piloted in three Regions with the highest suicide rates. Very soon, the Mental Health Unit will roll out this surveillance programme in all the public hospitals across our country. As part of this programme, all hospitals which have treated self-harm patients will notify the Mental Health Unit so that they can benefit from specialised care provided by local psychiatrists, social workers and psychologists until
they are no longer considered to be at risk. As a country, we need to continue working together on our public awareness programmes; on
important issues such as depression, the misuse of alcohol and the improper use of illegal drugs and other psychotropic substances which are often linked to self-harm and suicide. With the backing of all Guyanese, these and other measures that are to be put in place will surely help the current suicide rate to fall even further.
While the task ahead of us appears very daunting, we cannot flinch from our collective responsibility. We cannot afford to become discouraged by its weight, demoralised by the journey or disheartened by the sacrifices demanded of each of us to reach this goal. We are still our brothers’ keeper.
As stewards, we must continue supporting mental health training in all of the suicide-vulnerable Regions of our country. As guardians of each
other, we must pay particular attention too, to our male population, who more easily kill themselves, according to our 2017 Suicide Report.
It shows that men comprise 69 per cent of all deaths by suicide for the period under review. Therefore, as a country, we have to continue rallying
behind our Men’s Health Department, headed ably by Dr. Denis Bassier, in our quest to lower the nation’s suicide rate.
It is heartening that a section of the report indicates that the Mental Health Unit “will collaborate with the Men’s Health focal point to be part
of the ‘Men Tent’ activities in order to do mental health promotion and prevention”. These activities will be scheduled for March, April, July and
December “to keep the men engaged, encouraged and educated during the times (it seems) stressors are present in the communities,” the 2017 Report said. The highest number of suicides occur during these four months in Guyana.
The Suicide Prevention Strategy 2015-2020 reminds us that children and young people must not be ignored in the fight against suicide. They all
face bullying, poor body image and lack of self-esteem problems which help trigger suicidal behaviours. The document also outlines measures to
help parents keep their children safe while they surf the internet. Let us practice the many laudable ideas we have documented to fight suicide. These include timely identification and referral of women and children exposed to abuse or violence so that they benefit from appropriate support. We have to improve the mental health of the wider population as a buffer against suicide and put on the national front burner, suicide risk by occupation. While we must also continue to explore the links between mental ill-health and social factors such as unemployment, debt, isolation,
family breakdown and bereavement, the ability of front-line agencies to identify and support (or signpost to support) people who may be at risk of
developing mental health problems is important for suicide prevention.
We also need safe prescribing by physicians and pharmacists to help restrict access to some toxic drugs and the support from planners, developers and those involved in public infrastructure to design structures which severely limit suicide opportunities. Finally, all the relevant agencies in
the public and private sectors need to include post-suicide community-level interventions in their programmes which can help prevent copycat and
suicide clusters. These measures call for individual and collective sacrifices as together we work to help prevent suicide.

Article Categories:
Health · Issue 34 · Psychological · Social Issues · Suicide

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