Gov’t anticipates reduction in suicides with new measures in Suicide Prevention Amendment Bill

Minister of Health, Dr Frank Anthony is confident that the new Suicide Prevention (Amendment) Bill, passed on Monday in the National Assembly, will significantly reduce Guyana’s suicide rate.

The amended bill outlines several measures, including the establishment of a National Commission on Suicide Prevention and Suicide Prevention Centres in various parts of the country to help tackle the issue.

Minister of Health, Dr Frank Anthony making a presentation on the Suicide Prevention Bill in the National Assembly

Guyana has one of the highest suicide rates in the world, however, the numbers have been dipping recently and is expected to fall lower as the measures are implemented.

“We are very confident that with these new interventions we would be able to make a bigger impact on suicide prevention in Guyana and those people who want to commit suicide.

“We are going to see a drop in cases. In 2017, for example, we had 185 cases of suicide and that dropped. Last year we had 165, this year so far, we have just about 100 and I hope that it stays that way, but with all of these measures that we are putting in place, we are going to see a significant reduction,” the health minister said.

Dr. Anthony noted that many cases of suicide occur because vulnerable persons were not detected, thereby preventing the relevant intervention.

He said this will change as primary healthcare workers and members of the community will be trained to help identify vulnerable persons and streamline the help they need.

“In many cases, the reason why we have a high number of people committing suicide is that a lot of these persons might have had depression, but when they come to the health system, the depression is not detected and if it’s not detected then we are not able to treat them.”

Newer, more effective treatment methods will also be used.

“In this new legislation, what we are advocating is to have both treatments with psychoactive substances plus to be able to do cognitive behavioural therapy. This has been found to be very effective with patients and we are going to establish several suicide centers where cognitive behavioral therapy will be administered,” Dr Anthony said.

The ministry will also work with the relevant agencies to restrict vulnerable persons from accessing firearms and poisonous substances.

A mobile unit was also established to provide immediate help for persons. Three lives have already been saved since the unit began operations.

The ministry has undertaken several studies with Columbia University for an evidence-based approach to address the social issue.