Every year hundreds of people kill themselves. This corresponds to roughly one death every day and a half, effectively making suicide one of three leading causes of death among the 14-44 years age group, and the second leading cause
of death in the 10-24 age group.
These figures, however, do not include attempts, which are approximated to be about 25 cases for every death by suicide in the country.
Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Shamdeo Persaud, presented an overview of the current suicide statistics. He was at the time speaking at a Govt.-spearheaded meeting intended to help chart the way forward to address suicide.
Attending the meeting on Sunday last were several Government Ministers including Minister of Public Health, Dr. George Norton; Minister within the Ministry of Public Health, Dr. Karen Cummings; Minister of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs, Sydney Allicock; Minister of Social Protection, Volda Lawrence; Minister of Tourism and Communication, Cathy Hughes; Minister within the Ministry of Education, Nicolette Henry and Minister within the Ministry of Communities, Dawn Hastings.
The officials at that forum were able to meet with several stakeholders including representatives of the Pan American Health Organisation/World Health Organisation (PAHO/ WHO), the United Nation’s Children Fund (UNICEF), the United Nation’s Population Fund (UNFPA), the Pesticides and Toxic Chemicals Control Board, and health professionals. They were all there to address the high incidence of suicide in Guyana.
At the meeting, Minister Norton made a special appeal for the involvement of all stakeholders to help craft an action-oriented plan that will address the needs of the most vulnerable groups in society in an effort to curb the escalating suicide trend in Guyana.
The objective of this meeting moreover was to craft an Emergency Suicide Plan and included efforts to: apprise all key stakeholders of the magnitude and burden of suicide in Guyana; examine a proposed suicide prevention plan and identify the critical elements for actions; define roles, responsibilities and functions of all partners; develop a joint work plan and a monitoring and evaluation framework; prepare a draft budget; and establish a technical task force to oversee the implementation of the initiative.
Participants at the meeting were presented with a summary of the National Suicide Prevention Plan, 2015-2020, along with an overview of the current suicide statistics.
The National Suicide Prevention Plan, as presented, will provide guidance for the development of a joint work plan, and is designed to include input from a wide cross-section of partners. The work plan will enable collaboration among government ministries, international partners, Non-governmental Organisations (NGOs), Faith-based Organisations (FBOs) and other stakeholders. The proposed activities in this multi-sectoral approach will be aligned to one of four strategic action areas— risk factor reduction, health promotion and prevention; reducing access to the means of suicide; improving health systems response to suicidal behaviour; and strengthening surveillance and research on suicide in Guyana.
The first strategic area of action explores the importance of coordination and mobilization of the NGOs and FBOs at the community, regional and national level; the development of an Information Education Communication Framework which would be guided by appropriate language and messages to the public; and the use of consultations in relation to neglected areas such as Parenting Education, Coping mechanisms, Youth Friendly spaces and the modification of the Health and Family Life Manual, to address issues related to suicide in schools.
The second strategic action involves identifying the means of suicide and devising means of reducing access to pesticides, prescription meds, jumping, alcohol use and firearms. But the most important approaches that have been outlined are the enforcement of regulation on the sale, distribution and storage of pesticides at all levels; the creation of Poison Control and Management Centres in affected communities with necessary training of persons; and following National Conventions and food and chemical safety goals directed towards the reduction in the use of pesticides, especially those of high toxicity.
Another strategic action entailed in the plan is the bolstering of capacity through training for health care providers, and efforts by public servants and as a nation, on the whole, to respond to suicidal behaviour.
A fourth strategic action, details ways to improve the data collection process through the creation of a multi-sectoral task force, and secretariat for the management and evaluation of data. This action also corresponds to the dire need for research on the different determinants of suicidal behaviour specific to local cultural setting.
The outcome of the meeting was a consensus on a rapid establishment of a multi stakeholder task force to coordinate the implementation of the four strategic action areas and to provide feedback to the key Minister and Government.
Short and medium term action plan of activities have been crafted. These are expected to be immediately implemented. The meeting also agreed to a wider stakeholders’ forum nationally involving all NGOs, CBOs and FBOs to coordinate regional level actions in the areas where the problem of suicide is most acute.
According to Minister Norton, “As a government, we welcome all to help us in our plan to protect our nation from this scourge.”
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