Ranked as the country with the third highest suicide rate in the world, Guyana on Monday joined other countries to observe World Suicide Prevention Day under the theme “Working Together to Prevent Suicide.”
The Guyana Equality Forum (GEF)- the umbrella body for over 20 civil society group on Monday met with its agencies at the Herdmanston Lodge in Georgetown, to push this agenda. The Forum urged local civil society organizations to include mental health in their work and strengthen collaboration at the community level to prevent suicide.
Delivering a Lecture a lecture on the topic of suicide was Acting British High Commissioner to Guyana, Ray Davidson, who is a mental health specialist.
His message surrounded the need to remove the stigma and discrimination associated with mental health, the need for “ordinary people” to make it a practice to speak to each other about their issues.
Sharing a story about a Mental Health First Aid Instructor who helped to save the life of a stranger –now an advocate against suicide – the High Commissioner (ag) outlined various barriers in society which needs to be broken down. Among those he mentioned were not only the stigma attached to mental health issues but also the thought that the problem might reoccur.
He emphasized that a person does not have to be mentally ill to consider suicide and one of the biggest myths about suicide is that “talking about suicide is a bad idea and it may give someone the idea to try it.” Instead, the diplomat said “people who have felt suicide will often say that what a huge relief it is to be able to talk about what they experience.”
Manager of the GEF Secretariat, Joel Simpson, urged groups to collaborate to solve the scourge. However, he is calling for more Government support for civil society organizations to make a greater impact in communities.
“Human resources are limited especially in civil society organizations which depend heavily on donor funding to carry out (their) work,” he said.
“This is an area where the government needs to step up through the Ministries of Public Health and Social Protection and provide support to organizations which are on the ground, which are in the communities especially those which are outside of Georgetown,” he stated.
Simpson noted that while many persons are sceptical to enter the various public health institutions with mental health issues, they will speak with the civil society representatives.
There is also a need for more scholarships to students for studies in Social Psychology and related fields since there is a shortage of professionals specializing in mental health issues. “We don’t have the minimum number of psychologists per capita,” he said.
The World Health Organization estimates that over 800,000 people die by suicide every year – that is one person every 40 seconds.
According to WHO statistics released in April 2017, Guyana has the third highest suicide rate in the world with 30.2 suicides per 100,000 deaths.
In Guyana, between 2010–2012, there were 667 reported suicide attempts, resulting in an average of 200 deaths per year.