Five-year study on suicide risk factors to commence in November

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A five-year study with researchers from Columbia University in the United States and representatives from the Ministry of Health is expected to commence in November.

This was revealed by Minister of Health Dr Frank Anthony during his daily COVID-19 update on Friday. The study follows challenges faced by Guyana in recognising and understanding risk factors associated with suicide.

Dr Anthony said the government has been working to mitigate suicide as the country continues to record high suicide rates.

“To that end, we have started a partnership with Columbia University and that partnership will see us doing a longitudinal study for about five years. We will officially launch this study in November,” Dr Anthony stated.

The study is being funded by the National Institute of Health (NIH) in the US.

Data revealed by the Ministry of Human Services and Social Security shows that since the COVID-19 pandemic started, there have been 147 suicides, with 120 being men. Nineteen of those were persons five-19 years while 109 were between 20 and 60 years. Regions Three, Four, and Six accounted for the largest numbers of those deaths.

Minister of Health, Dr. Frank Anthony

What is most worrisome is that for 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.

Meanwhile, the minister further highlighted that mental health also continues to pose a challenge for the local health care system. The minister acknowledged that several persons who require mental health care would have gone unrecognised given that many healthcare workers are not properly equipped to identify the signs of depression and other mental health-related issues.

The minister’s remarks come before the upcoming International Mental Health which is recognised annually on October 10.

The theme for this year’s World Mental Health Day is “Mental Health in an Unequal World”, highlighting unequal access to mental health care across the world.

Minister Anthony revealed that while it is difficult to diagnose mental health illnesses, the stigma attached to the issue is also another challenge.

“There is a lot of stigma attached to it so people don’t want to readily talk about these conditions,” Dr Anthony stated.

The government have been working to train health workers to better respond to mental health and be better informed.

“One of the things we have been working on is really to train physicians at the primary health care level so they would be more sensitive in their recognition of mental health illnesses.

“As it is, there are probably lots of people who have come to our primary care outpatient clinics and they would go unrecognised for things like depression and so forth,” Dr Anthony explained.

Once health care workers are properly trained to recognise these conditions, they will be able to take preventative actions.

“We know that a lot of people who are depressed can then go on to have suicidal thoughts and then eventually can commit suicide,” Dr Anthony said.

The minister is hopeful that with several other studies and programmes lined up with Columbia University, there will be improved service for mental health in Guyana.

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