Health Ministry prepared to battle suicide
- as Prevention Day is observed worldwide
Today is World Suicide Prevention Day and Guyana will not be left out in commemorating this anniversary which is being observed under the theme “Many faces, many places: suicide prevention across the world.”Among the activities that will be engaged by the local Health Ministry to observe the day will be the launch of a National Suicide Prevention Committee.
World Suicide Prevention Day is commemorated globally on September 10 on an annual basis in solidarity with the families that have had victims of suicide and to create awareness on suicide prevention.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), this day serves to promote worldwide commitment and action to prevent suicides. WHO has revealed that on average almost 3,000 people commit suicide, hence for every person who completes a suicide, 20 or more may attempt to end their lives.
In addition to more responsible reporting of suicides in the media, WHO has emphasised that at the global level, awareness needs to be raised that suicide is a major preventable cause of premature death. Governments, according to WHO, also need to develop policy frameworks for national suicide prevention strategies. At the local level, policy statements and research outcomes need to be translated into prevention programmes and activities in communities.
An average of 180 suicides is recorded on an annual basis locally, a state of affairs that has caused the Ministry of Health to considerably boost its capacity to respond to the public health scourge. According to Health Minister, Dr Leslie Ramsammy, Guyana has developed a surveillance system to track all suicide deaths even as he conceded that the tracking of attempted suicides is still weak.
In recognition of the fact that there are at least 500 suicide attempts on an annual basis, the Ministry of Health is now requiring all hospitals to report any possible suicide attempt cases to the Ministry within 24 hours after presentation at the hospital. The Ministry recently completed training for persons to operate a crisis hotline service which is intended to help reduce the problem.
Last year the Minister had revealed other plans to address the problem of suicide from various fronts, including monitoring persons’ accessibility to pesticides and putting programmes in place to deal with depression.
Based on a survey conducted over the five-year period of 2003 through 2007, the Health Ministry was able to deduce that a total of 946 persons committed suicide, bringing the annual average of such deaths to 189. For the target period, the Minister said that the number of suicides varied with 201 being recorded in 2003, 186 in 2004, 171 in 2005, 202 in 2006 and 186 in 2007.
And according to the Minister, in the five-year period, 718 of the 946 cases represented male suicide cases with 228 being female. As such it has been established that the male cases amounted to about 150 per year and the females about 42.
The age group of suicide cases ranges between 15 and 44 years, which according to the Minister, is a relatively young group.
And while the figures suggest that the problem remained constant over the five-year period, the Minister said that the Ministry was able to determine that this situation was prevalent since in the 80s.
“Interestingly enough the number of recorded suicides in 1988 was 148, but in 1988 there was significant under reporting. We estimated approximately 30 per cent underreporting occurred in 1988 and so we adjusted the number from the actual recorded cases of 1988 to what really happened. What came out is about 180 to 190, which means that over a long period of time we have had suicides at a particularly constant rate,” the Minister asserted.
The cases, according to the Minister, were detected primarily in Regions Six, Four, Three and Two. The vast majority of the cases occurred among persons of East Indian ancestry.
Topping the lists of tactics engaged to commit the criminal act of suicide was the ingestion of poisonous substances which was followed closely by strangulation caused by hanging, the minister said. He disclosed that in many instances the option of suicide is considered by persons who suffer from depression, thus the Ministry has already developed guidelines for the diagnosis and treatment of such cases.