Unfairly criticised by The Caribbean Voice (Pt Two)
I would like to address several issues raised by The Caribbean voice (TCV) regarding my recent letter in late August on suicide in Guyana.
TCV states that suicide in this country comes about because Guyanese are:
“Prone to copycatting, a practice referred to as the Werther Effect, suicide ideation is the result of depression and/or anxiety triggered by helplessness, hopelessness, powerlessness, and loneliness. These triggers are catalysed by low levels of self-acceptance and/ or feelings of inadequacy/low self-esteem, as a result of abusive and dysfunctional relationships; lack of empathetic communication, teenage affairs and pregnancy; rape and incest; an inability to deal with problems (lack of coping skills) and/or unbearable pain – psychosis, bipolar disorder and some other mental illness.”
My response: (a) TCV needs to know that copycatting is not a primary trigger driving suicide, rather it is a maladaptive response. Also, copycatting is high among individuals with personality characteristics like impulsiveness, aggressiveness or antisocial tendencies and that stress potentiates copycatting behaviours in these individuals.
To abrogate copycatting, at least the primary triggers inducing stress need to be eliminated or decreased. (b) That the variables listed by TCV are all related to stress and that they are directly or indirectly tied to the calamitous conditions in this country. (c) Importantly, stress is known to trigger relapse and individuals rescued through interventions can relapse into suicidal thoughts, particularly in Guyana where stress is intolerable. Moreover, stress also causes relapse of substance abuse, which is another risk factor for suicide. (d) That almost all variables listed by TCV are products of a hijacked brain stimulated by stress or through some kind of inherent pathology.
(e) Stress also increases suicide vulnerability in individuals with poor coping skills. (f) Moreover, the expressions and functions of genes can be modulated by stress in augmenting suicidal behaviours and in eliciting maladaptive responses. To this end, there is some indication at the behavioural level that genes may be playing a role in suicide in this country, but culture needs to be teased apart. Clearly, the suicide rate will fall if stress is attenuated.
Editor, a practical example can help connect the dots to illustrate how stress emanating from Guyana’s rough economy influences suicide. For example, the proprietor of Stretch – D – Dollar store has recently been the victim of a fatal suicidal behaviour after his business went bankrupt in a bad economy. Such a stressor has got to trigger unbearable stress, which breaches psychological well-being in eliciting and/or exacerbating depression, anxiety, hopelessness, etc, into pushing the proprietor into a series of problems which included divorcing and killing his wife and ultimately suicide. In another example, we have all witnessed that dysfunctional politics in this country has snuffed out diversity from the workforce and this, unfortunately, unleashes intolerable stress and ultimately pushes Guyanese into suicide. I am not sure why TCV is unable to connect the dots. I remained baffled. Given this narrative, I am convinced and, in no way, confused that calamitous conditions in this country largely spur such a human tragedy and as such, aggressive actions need to be taken to bring down the high unemployment rate, the high crime rate, curbing widespread discrimination, ending cruelty, ending dysfunctional politics, among a wide spectrum of others.
In closing, I need to be clear that I am very much in tune with the highly-valued and much-needed work done by the NGOs. They deserve praise. But definitely, more needs to be done. To this end, emphasis needs to be placed on reducing or eliminating the primary triggers in conjunction with broad therapeutic approaches aimed to reach every citizen. While my letters to the editors remain insightful, it is also my wish to be on the ground fighting this problem. And I remain hopeful that Guyanese will win this battle against such a human tragedy when egos are set aside, new ideas and insights are allowed to flourish and constructive criticisms are welcomed with open arms.
I wish to thank TCV for its criticisms which stimulate the contents of this letter. And although this letter cannot address every aspect of the suicide dynamic, I have nevertheless put forward a highly relevant hypothesis. Moreover, it needs to be realised that stress arising from the calamitous social, economic and political conditions influence brain functions in multiple ways in unleashing the bulk of suicide in this country.