Last year, a motion to decriminalise attempted suicide was debated in Parliament. Supported in principle by both sides of the house, it was voted against by the Government so as not to allow the Opposition to ‘score political points’.
The Caribbean Voice, in a letter to the media, suggested that the bill be sent to committee to thrash out something acceptable at a bipartisan level, which would not water down the necessary mechanisms for suicide prevention. Another suggestion was to set up a broad-based committee that includes the Government, Opposition, civil society and NGO stakeholders to rework the motion and have it jointly sponsored by a member of the Gov’t and a member of the Opposition. Nothing to date.
Secondly, while no stats were given at the press conference of Jan 19, The Caribbean Voice has constantly been putting out stats and facts on suicide in Guyana, and thus we were a bit puzzled by the PAHO/WHO Director Dr William Adu-Krow’s inaccurate figure that the suicide rate had plummeted to 20.6 per 100,000 people in 2015, as well as the inaccurate stat that the 2012 suicide rate was 44.2 per 100,000 people.
Clearly, the 2012 figure is an anomaly, especially given that the only adjustment actually made by the WHO is from crude rate to age-standardized suicide rate, to eliminate the effect of differences in population age structures when comparing crude rates for different periods of time, different geographic areas, and/or different population sub-groups. Thus the 2015 crude rate of 29.0 was adjusted to 30.6.
Whatever led to this apparent anomaly, it presents a skewed picture that makes the work of suicide prevention NGOs and activists that much more difficult, besides seeming to imply that, with such a significant rate reduction, the Government does not need to ramp up resources to tackle suicide.
That PAHO Rep Dr Adu Krow was quoted a number of times in certain sections of the media as stating that the 2015 rate was 20.6 is even more puzzling; and despite The Caribbean Voice’s suggestion that Dr. Adu Krow may have been misquoted, he has not, to date, provided any public clarifying statement.
Finally, in 2015, just prior to the elections, the Pesticides and Toxic Chemicals Control Board (PTCCB) met with The Caribbean Voice, the Guyana Hindu Dharmic Sabha, the Rights of the Child Commission, and a couple of other stakeholders to discuss the possibility of implementing an adaption of the Sri Lanka Hazard Reduction Model, which had reduced pesticide suicide in that nation by about 50% in about a decade, and for which The Caribbean Voice had been lobbying. An undertaking was given by the PTCCB to roll out such a policy a few months down the road, but a change of Government came in May 2015, and that undertaking was apparently scrapped.
The Sri Lanka Hazard Reduction Model is still the most viable and results-oriented strategy to tackle pesticide suicide anywhere, and we strongly believe that it needs to be adapted and implemented in Guyana, especially since all other measures have thus far failed miserably.
The Caribbean Voice