It should come as no surprise to anyone that Guyana suffers from the debilitating epidemic that is suicide. We are touted as the country with the highest per capita rate of suicide in the Caribbean.
Last week, a young mother in Linden fed her children – aged 8 years and 6 months respectively – a poisonous substance before consuming it herself. That 24-year-old mother, Temicia Sampson, and her younger child have since succumbed.
It seems that regardless of how hard we try to prevent this scourge, persons, regardless of their expected wisdom and age, are finding it necessary to go down this route.
Suicide, the act of intentionally taking one’s life, is attributed to many factors, including despair, mental disorders, depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder, and addiction, among many other factors too numerous to mention. The World Health Organization (WHO) posits that more than 800,000 persons commit suicide every year, which equates to one death every 40 seconds.
According to the WHO, globally, among young adults 15 to 29 years old, suicide accounts for over eight per cent of all deaths, and is ranked as the second leading cause of death. Among adults aged 30 to 49, it accounts for more than four per cent of all deaths, and is ranked the fifth leading cause of death.
Contrary to what many may think, persons who commit suicide or persons who show signs that they may likely commit suicide, as for example saying that they want to die or are willing to take their lives, do not really want to kill themselves. Research has shown that people who talk about committing suicide are really reaching out for help, since they might be suffering from anxiety, depression, and hopelessness, which might be occasioned by a multitude of factors, such as job loss, discrimination, and even an unstable economic environment, among many other factors.
According to the health body, suicide impacts the most vulnerable of the world’s populations, and is highly prevalent in already marginalised and discriminated groups of society.
“It is not just a serious public health problem in developed countries; in fact, most suicides occur in low- and middle-income countries, where resources and services, if they do exist, are often scarce and limited for early identification, treatment and support of people in need. These striking facts and the lack of implemented timely interventions make suicide a global public health problem that needs to be tackled imperatively.”
The WHO has identified a host of measures to be used which might mitigate the prevalence of suicide, some of which include creating national strategies for suicide prevention; restricting access to the most common means of suicide, including pesticides, firearms and certain medicines; incorporating suicide prevention as a central component in health services; providing medical follow-ups for persons who have attempted suicide; identifying and treating mental health and substance abuse disorders as early as possible; and responsible reporting on suicide by the news media.
Guyana’s Governments past and present have, over the years, instituted a host of mechanisms to deal with the epidemic, including incorporating mechanisms advanced by the WHO, but suicide still remains a predominant feature on the tapestry of Guyana’s social fabric.
Some scholars have argued that the mechanisms which are being advanced would do no good for Guyana, since they are addressing only the symptoms of suicide, and not the disease itself.
Moreover, there is a need to change how we, as Guyanese, are socialised about suicide, possibly incorporating within our homes, schools and religious education systems, from a young age, social teachings that are often overlooked, such are building confidence, self-esteem and tolerance, etc.
By reinforcing positive behaviours and displacing negative stereotypes over a period of time, change would take place, as the populace would have more defined coping mechanisms to deal with the stresses associated with life, and would be less inclined to choose the option of death.