Suicide Prevention is everyone’s interest

The Ministry of Human Services and Social Security recognizes the significance of this year’s World Suicide Prevention Day theme, “Creating Hope through Action.” We stand with Guyana and the rest of the world in recognizing the importance of tangible intervention to save lives.

Worldwide, one in every 100 deaths caused by suicide happens every 40 seconds. For every death, there are 25 attempts. Guyana has been unable to shake its high suicide rate, with the most affected groups being youth and women. Physical and emotional abuses are among the leading causes of suicide, while hanging or poisoning are the most frequent methods used.

Minister of Human Services and Social Security, Dr. Vindhya Persaud and others during a pre-COVID-19 suicide vigil.

Recent studies show the COVID-19 pandemic had a serious impact on mental health wellness among adolescents and adults. Most worrisome in Guyana, there have been 147 suicides, with 120 being men. Nineteen of those were persons 5-19 years while 109 were between 20 and 60 years. Regions Three, Four and Six accounted for the largest numbers of those deaths.

During the first half of 2021, 30 children attempted suicide with 25 being females. Reports revealed that approximately 30% of children aged 15-19 years couldn’t share their problems with anyone. This alarming trend signals the need for adults to recognize the pre-emptive signs, identify the triggers and offer critical support through listening in a non-judgmental or understanding way, creating a support network and being proactive in getting that young person professional help if necessary and developing a trustworthy relationship that invites confidence.

Suicidal thoughts are often the result of difficulties coping with mental health. Persons may turn to alcohol, isolate themselves from others, and demonstrate irritability. The effects of being persistently alone and worried may have forced some into drug use, self-harm, disturbing thoughts, withdrawal and depression.

The call to action to stimulate hope is a pertinent reminder to everyone that suicide is preventable. What is required is collectivity in awareness, accurate information dissemination and the concern for each other to not dismiss any person when they express suicidal intent or exhibit signs of depression or other mental health issues. Anyone who attempted suicide will tell you the stigma surrounding mental health and illness is demoralizing, crippling and pushes them further into an abyss of hopelessness. Unless we can stop treating it as a taboo subject and peel away the layers of societal insensitivity and treat attempts for what they are, a cry for help, we will continue to see the relentless surge of self-harm.

Minister of Human Services and Social Security, Dr. Vindhya Persaud and others during a pre-COVID-19 suicide vigil.

In 2016, subject minister, Dr. Vindhya Persaud piloted a motion in Parliament to decriminalize suicide in Guyana. Unfortunately, this was not supported. She believes that this is an important step that must be taken, which will tangibly recognize the need to treat and support persons who grapple with myriad mental health issues that may lead them towards suicide.

Strengthening coping mechanisms also require more open and frank dialogues among various groups including spouses, parents and children, so early interventions could be made. The idea is to reach out and support people before it is too late.

Everyone has a role to play by reaching out to a loved one or a friend who they think may be having difficulties coping with life and reassuring them that their lives are valuable. One life lost to suicide is one too many. We don’t always know what is going through the minds of others as most suffer in silence.

Everyone is dealing with challenges but the world will always be a better place with each person in it. Think about your loved ones who have to live the rest of their lives with the pain of losing a daughter, mother, aunt, wife, husband, uncle, father, son or a friend.

The Ministry of Human Services and Social Security has rolled out a series of programmes that target the core of vulnerable communities to equip them with the necessary tools to face the world and play a valuable part in society.

Recently, the Ministry unveiled its Women Innovation and Investment Network (WIIN) to empower women and girls and provides hope for a promising future, through meaningful careers and financial independence.

The Ministry is rolling out its skills training programme for persons living with disabilities to provide them with the practical skills that will afford them the opportunity of finding employment or becoming entrepreneurs.

The toll-free 914 hotline is available for persons to call and report acts of domestic and sexual violence. Here, they can speak to trained social workers or survivors advocates who will assist them.

Additionally, through the Child Care and Protection Agency, the Ministry also offers support to children who may be having a hard time coping.

You do not have to feel alone; there are avenues through the Ministry of Human Services and Social Security where persons can get support. We implore everyone to value life, live on and yes, let us all help each other to value life.

Let’s all create hope through action!