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Coordinated approach to tackling suicide needed- PAHO/WHO, Pres Granger

The Pan American Health Organisation/World Health Organisation (PAHO/WHO) and President David Granger on Wednesday called for greater coordination in developing strategies to combat suicide in Guyana, a country that is ranked as the world’s suicide capital.

Addressing the opening of a Suicide Prevention Programme organised by the Ministry of Public Health and other stakeholders, PAHO/WHO Representative in Guyana, Dr. William Adu-Krow highlighted the need for all stakeholders that are involved in fighting suicide to have an approved or common approach.

Adu-Krow said latest statistics show that there rate of change between 2000 and 2012 has decreased by 8.5 percent but it is not showing because Guyana’s incidence of suicide is “really high” at 44.2 persons per every 100,000 or about 700 deaths annually. Statistics also reveal that 3 males to 1 female commit suicide

Most persons who take their own lives are between 20 and 49 years old but the country also has “one of the highest suicide rates” by persons between 50 and 69 years.  Turning his attention to religion, he said that among Christians Presbyterians are least likely to take their lives compared to Pentecostals. Overall, he said Christians and Hindus are 30 percent each more likely to attempt suicide but 31 percent of Hindus actually complete suicide.

Noting that China and Suriname were several years registered as countries with the worst suicide rates but today they have made a turnaround, the PAHO/WHO official recommended a harmonization and coordination of the course content for persons who are interested in reducing the incidence of suicide as part of the already crafted National Strategic Plan. “I think what is needed now is how to operationalise those plans into activities,” he said, adding that it was important for health authorities to know who is doing what, where and how with the best course content. “Sometime we want to do the right thing but what we may be doing may not necessarily be the right thing,” he said.

Referring to the jumping off of Kaieteur Falls to their death, President Granger said every effort must be made to stop the ‘Kaieteur Effect’ or copycat approach. He said there needs to be coordination among academics, local and non-governmental organisations and individuals whose impact so far has been “slight.”  “The problem of suicide in Guyana is of such magnitude that it would be necessary for all those who are involved in anti-suicide efforts to combine their efforts so that they can coordinate better the work that they are doing,” he said.

The Guyanese leader recommended that investigations and research be conducted to determine what the causes of suicide are before remedies are prescribed. Granger wants focus to be on the causes of suicide, the wide dissemination of information, detection of risk factors and a multidisciplinary approach to deal with such a health and social problem. The President said help must be provided to help people cope with problems by providing counseling and access to persons who could provide advice.

President Granger earlier this year spearheaded the Guyana government’s multi-stakeholder approach to combating suicide through community involvement, reduction of access to means to commit suicide and public awareness and education.