Five-year study to determine risk factors of suicide to start in January


By Vishani Ragobeer

A five-year study on suicide in Guyana will commence in January and is expected to determine specific risk factors and the interventions needed to support individuals and help reduce the prevalence of suicide across the country.

This study is being conducted by a research team from the Global Psychiatric Epidemiology Group in collaboration with local stakeholders. The researchers intend to engage the general population, people who attempted to harm themselves and received institutional care, and families and friends of people who died by suicide.

Dr Christina Hoven, the Director of the Global Psychiatric Epidemiology Group and Professor of Epidemiology and Psychiatry at the Columbia University in the United States of America (USA), is part of the team conducting the study in Guyana.

“Suicide is not a very simple phenomenon, it is very multifaceted and intersects with all segments of society,” Dr. Hoven told the News Room during an interview on Saturday.

She later added, “We know some things but we don’t know most things.”

With the study aiming to collect data from the three groups, Dr. Hoven explained that the findings will be integrated and will help stakeholders craft interventions specific to Guyana’s culture and situation.

This study is particularly important since Guyana continues to record a high prevalence of suicide.

Minister of Health Dr. Frank Anthony (second from right) with Director Global Psychiatric Epidemiology Group and Professor of Epidemiology and Psychiatry at the Columbia University Dr. Christina Hoven, Deputy Director of the Global Psychiatric Epidemiology Group Dr. George Musa (right) and Former PAHO/WHO Representative to Guyana Dr. William Adu Krow (Photo courtesy of Jessica Anthony)

According to a 2014 report by the World Health Organization (WHO), Guyana was cited as the country with the highest suicide rate in the world with 44.2 suicides per 100,000 people. For context, the global average was about 16 per 100,000.

Over the past few years, there have been several interventions from the local health authorities in addition to the non-governmental efforts. Still, Guyana is the country with the second-highest rate of suicide now.

Dr George Musa, the Deputy Director Global Psychiatric Epidemiology Group, emphasised that the study would help to improve the interventions that may come from the government and/or non-governmental bodies to help provide greater support to people and ultimately, curb suicides.

To do so, he says it is crucial to hear from Guyanese instead of using broad-based interventions or prevention methods that have been used in other states.

“There are alot of interventions around the world but unless you adapt it to the environment, culture and wonderful people, no intervention is really going to help.

“It has to be adapted culturally and adapted to specific risk factors,” he explained.

While the study will get underway from January, a Guyana Mental Health and Well-being Conference is slated for November 8 to 11 at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre at Liliendaal, Georgetown.

Dr. Hoven explained that the team is hopeful that this conference will engender enthusiasm among local stakeholders, particularly those who work in the field of mental health.

The Health Ministry offers services at its Mental Health Unit at Quamina Street, Georgetown from 08:00hrs to 16:00hrs on weekdays. There is also the recently launched toll-free 655-SAFE (655-7233) hotline through which persons can access counselling services.

If you or anyone you know is feeling depressed and possibly contemplating suicide, please call the Guyana Inter-agency Suicide Helpline which operates 24 hours and is organised by the Guyana Police Force. Telephone -223-0001, 223-0009, 223-0818 Cellphone – 600-7896, 623-4444.

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