Today, Guyana joins the rest of the world in observing World Suicide Prevention Day. This year, the general theme is “Working together to prevent suicide” and the day provides an opportunity to raise awareness of suicide prevention.
When life has become a burden, too heavy to bear, some persons do not have the courage, or strength, or spiritual fortitude to overcome an urge to seek a place they think may offer escape from their pain or problems.
They think – that is, if they are thinking at all, and not merely acting on primal emotion – that the place they have in mind would provide a final solution to all that is ailing them. Suicide is one of the most selfish and cruel acts that any human being can commit because the lifelong burden of pain and blame that relatives and loved ones carry to their graves robs them also of their lives, or diminishes the quality of their lives.
The link between suicide and depression indicates that intervention in the lives of those who display suicidal tendencies is a dire necessity, because depression is a disease that predisposes suicidal tendencies. Sometimes someone who decides to end his/her life is saved and has a second chance at living their life to the full and natural end. They discover that so many challenges lead to higher places in life that they come to the realisation that their initial response to pain had not been a solution – final or otherwise – but merely a precipitator of problems and a source of unending pain for loved ones.
Persons who had opted for this apparent resolution to their problems, whether they died the same time or many days afterwards, had committed the most selfish act; because they had paid no heed to their obligations to parents and other relatives who loved them, or are dependent on them for anything.
Mainly of recent times, there has been a spate of actual and attempted suicides in Guyana, especially in rural areas; and the authorities seem perplexed as to how to deal with what is emerging as an epidemic, because mental health issues seem to have taken a backseat in the health sector.
There often is need for merely a listening ear to diffuse unbearable emotions and a caring person to advise that this final act of taking one’s own life leaves many unresolved problems for others. The agony of the moment that precipitates that momentous and tragic act that writes the final episode of one’s life by one’s own actions could be gradually reduced to manageable proportions if there is a confidante or someone to whom the afflicted can relate and in whom they can confide.
Research has determined suicide in Guyana is a serious social problem, as Guyana was ranked first in suicides per capita worldwide.
Statistics have revealed that about 40 per cent of people who commit suicide in Guyana ingest agricultural pesticides and thus poison themselves. The most famous case of suicide in Guyana was the mass suicide of over 900 members of Jim Jones’ Peoples Temple in 1978, although some sources regard the events as mass murder. Jim Jones, the leader of this cult, and his followers were all Americans who had created a commune in Guyana’s jungles.
Suicide is a major problem and its prevention should be a worldwide priority. Here at home, steps have been taken by both Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and Government to help reduce the incidence of suicide. However, no significant prevention initiatives have been launched. There is no national action plan that can be implemented. Today, as we observe seek to help in the prevention of this ugly sickness calls must be made for a coordinated national response to suicide.