Gov’t using multifaceted approach to tackle worrying suicide rate

– Bill tabled in National Assembly to establish Suicide Prevention Commission

Government is tackling the worrying suicide rate in Guyana through the Suicide Prevention Bill 2022 which was laid on Thursday in the National Assembly and read for the first time by Minister of Health, Dr. Frank Anthony.

It provides for the establishment of a National Suicide Prevention Commission, and suicide prevention centres, among other measures to help curb the high suicide rate in Guyana.

The function of the National Suicide Prevention Commission will include the preparation of a suicide prevention plan consisting of policies, and measures to be implemented for the prevention of suicide.

The commission will also make provisions for appropriate support for families affected by suicide, as well as friends and coworkers.

Minister Anthony presents the Suicide Prevention Bill in the National Assembly

Additionally, the commission will introduce financial measures and garner support from private sector entities for survivors and families of suicide victims.

Meanwhile, the bill will mandate witnesses to make reports of suicide or attempted suicide to authorities. Failure to do so will incur a fine of $ 200,000 or three months in prison.

Another highlight of the bill states that “Clause 38 repeals sections 95 and 96 of the Criminal Law (Offences) Act, cap 8.01, dealing with procuring or abetting the commission of suicide and or attempt suicide”.

This part of the law currently finds anyone who attempts suicide, guilty of a misdemeanor and liable to imprisonment for two years.

It also repeals section 203 of the Summary of Jurisdiction (Offences) Act Cap 8:02, which makes attempted suicide a misdemeanor, and persons found guilty liable to 12 months in prison.

On Thursday, Minister Anthony told DPI that the amendments to the bill were long in the making.

“This has been something that people have been advocating for a long time, to remove that section of our law, so this bill, once we pass it, will help to repeal that section,” Dr. Anthony said, while referring to the section which repeals the criminalising of attempted suicide.

The ministry has been working on several strategies to understand the root causes of suicide.

Once the legislation is passed, the ministry will roll out a strategic plan to address the social scourge.

The ministry is currently working with international partners and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), including Columbia University, to understand the causes and effects of suicide on victims’ families. The ministry has also been training local primary healthcare workers to detect depression in persons who access services, to ensure early intervention.

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