“Creating hope Through Action”

Today Guyana joins the rest of the world to observe World Suicide Prevention Day themed “Creating hope Through Action”.
Globally, an estimated 703,000 die by suicide. According to the World Health Orginsation (WHO) for every suicide, there are likely 20 other people making a suicide attempt and many more have serious thoughts of suicide. WHO has said that millions of people suffer intense grief or are otherwise profoundly impacted by suicidal behaviours.
This year’s theme, “Creating hope through action,” is intent to reflects the need for collective, action to address this urgent public health issue, PAHO has said.
“All of us- family members, friends, co-workers, community members, educators, religious leaders, healthcare professionals, political officials and governments- can take action to prevent suicide in the Region,” PAHO has stated in its 2022 message.
Suicide is a mental health problem, often precipitated by one catalysing factor at a moment’s impulse. This global phenomenon is a scourge affecting every nation of the world.
However, suicide is preventable, and education through generally interactive counselling sessions — especially in schools, churches and at various youth fora; as well as easily-accessible helplines that could provide timely interventions by way of a conduit, a compassionate listening ear, and provision of advice based on rational reasoning for revealing bad experiences and expressing negative emotions, especially impersonal ones — can serve to reduce the crippling pain to bearable levels, and enable rational thought that diffuses intentions of self-destruction
In a national context, there needs to be a more holistic approach involving multi-sectoral agencies, especially in the health, education, and social services sectors.
A more comprehensive suicide prevention strategy is imperative to curb and eventually eliminate this scourge from society.
According to the WHO, experiencing conflict, disaster, violence, abuse or loss, and a sense of isolation is strongly associated with suicidal behaviour. Suicide rates are also high among vulnerable groups who experience discrimination, such as refugees and migrants; indigenous peoples; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex (LGBTI) persons. By far, the strongest risk factor for suicide is a previous suicide attempt.
Suicide became a noticeable issue from the beginning of Indian Indentureship, when the rate of suicide rose from approximately 6/100,000 in the North India districts from which they were brought by a factor of one hundred times. While suicide is an observed phenomenon in all social groups, in Guyana, Indian-Guyanese remain the main victims, with their rates almost 10 times the next closest ethnic group. In 2001, the Ministry of Health declared suicide as a Public Health issue, and launched several initiatives within a “National Suicide Prevention Strategy” to deal with it. The then Minister of Health, Leslie Ramsammy, indicated that the programme would be coordinated by the Ministry of Health; would involve the Ministry of Labour, Human Services and Social Security, the Education Ministry and the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports.
In 2009 a very grassroots-oriented “Gateskeeper Programme” was launched to train individuals in communities to be aware of signs of suicide risks, and to make interventions with the aim of directing the identified persons to professionals. He also mentioned that UG had introduced a three-year Master’s Programme in Mental Health to produce specialists for treating mental illness, of which suicide is deemed a subset. Since then, there have been other interventions, but the suicide rate rose inexorably to the 2012 high, from where it has not budged significantly.
In 2012, the WHO had issued a desiderata as to what ought to be done by the authorities, which bears repetition: “We need to (1) continue to research suicide and non-fatal suicidal behaviour, addressing both risk and protective factors; (2) develop and implement awareness campaigns with the aim of increasing awareness of suicidal behaviours in the community, incorporating evidence on both risk and protective factors (3) target our efforts not only to reduce risk factors, but also to strengthen protective factors, especially in childhood and adolescence; (4) train health care professionals to better understand evidence-based risk and protective factors associated with suicidal behaviour (5) combine primary, secondary and tertiary prevention (6) increase use of and adherence to treatments shown to be effective in treating diverse conditions; and to prioritise research into effectiveness of treatments aimed at reducing self-harm and suicide risk (7) increase the availability of mental health resources, and to reduce barriers to accessing care (8) disseminate research evidence about suicide prevention to policy makers at international, national and local levels (9) reduce stigma and promote mental health literacy among the general population and health care professionals (10) reach people who don’t seek help, and hence don’t receive treatment when they are in need of it (11) ensure sustained funding for suicide research and prevention (12) influence governments to develop suicide prevention strategies for all countries, and to support the implementation of those strategies that have been demonstrated to save lives.”
While we are still battling the COVID-19 pandemic, which have stretched our human and material resources, we cannot afford to let up on the fight against suicide. Even one life lost to suicide is one too many. A listening ear and rational advice proffered in a non-judgmental way can prevent many disturbed persons from taking their own lives. Each suicidal death is a public health issue.