Suicide in Guyana on the decrease

─ suicide prevention efforts intensify to further deplete figures

─ self-harm, attempted suicide cases under watch

─ minister seeking to repeal criminalisation of attempted suicide 

DPI, Guyana, Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Today, after several intervention efforts, the suicide rate is on the decrease, as work continues to address this scourge, countrywide. However, there is much attention being given to self-harm and attempted suicide cases which are a silent number often overlooked.

As World Suicide Prevention Day was observed, Director of the Mental Health Unit, Dr. Util Richmond-Thomas announced statistics indicating the progress Guyana has made in addressing a 2014-2015 figure which indicated a suicide rate of 44.2 deaths per 100,000.

“Presently, the Ministry of Public Health recorded a total of 184 deaths by suicide in 2017 and 141 in 2018. Using the 2012 population census, the crude rate of deaths by suicide is 24.63 per 100,000 in 2017 and 18.88 per 100,000 in 2018 of a total population of 746,995 persons which is a significant decrease.”

The Mental Health Director detailed that during the period under review, although there has been a notable decrease there are some areas which will require intensified efforts as the target will also be expanded.

It was found that Region 2 had the highest number of suicides followed by Region 6, with the East Indian population bearing 68% of suicides, followed by African-Guyanese with 10% in 2017. Last year, 65% were East Indians while 17% were of African descent.

Also, suicide was a leading cause of death among persons aged 25 to 44 while the most affected age group were those 20 to 29 years old. However, cases involving persons aged 13 to 19 years and over 50 years were higher in proportion. This is among a host of statistics highlighted by the director which intends to prompt targeted efforts in addressing suicide.

Public Health Minister, Hon. Volda Lawrence said that while there is a reduction in suicide there still needs to be more work done to target attempts and address the overall issue of suicide. She said even as Guyana embraces improved statistics, there needs to be more work done in all target groups and not just one specific demographic.

She also noted that attention must be shifted to those who are silent at the attempted suicide cases.

In Guyana, our statistics reveal that our suicide attempts outnumber the actual deaths and we must be cognizant of this situation so that in our collaborative efforts we can be more responsive to those around us. We must certainly look out for those who isolate themselves.”

Further, the health minister noted that she will seek the repeal of the criminalisation of attempted suicide in Guyana as these cases are “a cry for help.” The minister added that observation, reaching out and listening should be among key steps taken to address self-harm and suicide.

These remarks were made at the National Cultural Centre (NCC) where a concert was held in observance of, World Suicide Prevention Day – September 10. Before the concert, there was a walk through the streets of Georgetown to raise awareness about the issue.

Non-Governmental Organisations, such as Save Guyana and Private Entities like Massy Industries attending the programme in observance of world suicide prevention, have recommitted their efforts towards the task through awareness messages with the hope of eliminating suicide as a cause of death.

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