Today is World Suicide Prevention Day. Guyana will be joining the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) in observing the day, themed: “Creating hope through action”. The objective of the day, which is endorsed by the World Health Organization (WHO), is to raise awareness about suicide prevention worldwide.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO) reports, every year, close to 800,000 people take their own lives, and there are many more people who attempt suicide. The organisation also informed that suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15-to-29-year-olds globally.
Here, in Guyana, statistics released by the Human Services Ministry point to recent studies which stated that COVID-19 pandemic had a serious impact on mental health wellness among adolescents and adults. According to the Human Services Ministry, “most worrisome in Guyana, there have been 147 suicides, with 120 being men. Nineteen of those were persons 5-19 years, while 109 were between 20 and 60 years. Regions Three, Four and Six accounted for the largest numbers of those deaths. During the first half of 2021, 30 children attempted suicide, with 25 being females.”
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, suicides are 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 if it is an impersonal one, 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 holistic approach involving multi-sectoral agencies, especially in the health, education and social services sectors.
A 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.
Prioritising formulating a strategy for suicide prevention has become an imperative, because the consequence is not only the tragic, preventable loss of a life; but this one irreversible and tragic act has many victims, especially loved ones on whom are inflicted a lifetime of unendurable pain and emotional and psychological scars.
Raising community awareness and breaking down the taboo is important for countries to make progress in preventing suicide, but this figure is not cast in stone because, according to WHO, globally, the availability and quality of data on suicide and suicide attempts is poor. Only 80 Member States have good quality, vital registration data that can be used directly to estimate suicide rates. The first WHO
World Suicide Report, “Preventing suicide: a global imperative”, published in 2014, aims to increase the awareness of the public health significance of suicide and suicide attempts, and to make suicide prevention a high priority on the global public health agenda. It also aims to encourage and support countries to develop or strengthen comprehensive suicide prevention strategies in a multisectoral public health approach.
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.
We endorse Human Services Minister Dr Vindhya Persaud, who in her World Suicide Prevention Day message said: “Unless we can stop treating it as a taboo subject and peel away the layers of societal insensitivity and treat attempts for what they are, a cry for help, we will continue to see the relentless surge of self-harm.”