Guyana crafts suicide emergency plan

Last Updated on Tuesday, 19 January 2016, 13:49 by Denis Chabrol

Non-governmental and religious organisations, government and  United Nations (UN) agencies are now expected to play a major role in helping suicidal persons cope with stress and reduce access to several means by which they could kill themselves, the Ministry of Public Health said Tuesday.

The Suicide Emergency Plan, which is in line with Guyana’s 2015-2020 National Suicide Prevention Plan, emerged from a meeting between several ministers and top representatives of a number of United Nations agencies here.

The Public Health Ministry said non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and Faith-Based Organisations (FBOs) would have to coordinate and mobilize their activities at the community, regional and national level.

Emphasis will be placed on developing and providing coping mechanisms, creating Youth Friendly spaces and modifying the Health and Family Life Manual to address issues related to suicide in schools.  In the area of information, education and communication, a framework is to be developed to provide appropriate language and messages to the public and consult on neglected areas such as Parenting Education.

In seeking to identify the means of suicide, the stakeholders agreed to devise means of reducing access to pesticides, prescription meds, jumping, alcohol use and firearms. “The most important plans indicated are the enforcement of regulation on the sale, distribution and storage of pesticides at all levels; the creation of Poison Control and Management Centers in affected communities with necessary training of persons; and following National Conventions and food and chemical safety goals directed towards the reduction in the use of pesticides especially those of high toxicity,” the  Public Health Ministry added in its statement.

Health care providers, public servants and others are to be trained and their attitudes changed to  respond to suicide behavior.

Those decisions were made on Sunday January 17, 2016 at a meeting between the ministers of  Public Health, Indigenous Affairs, Social Protection, Tourism and Communication, Education and Communities on the one hand and several stakeholders including the Pan American Health Organisation/World Health Organisation (PAHO/ WHO), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the Pesticides and Toxic Chemicals Control Board.

Authorities also intend to improve their data collection, management and analysis  through a multi- sectoral task force. “This Action also corresponds to the dire need for research on the different determinants of suicidal behaviour specific to our cultural setting,” said the ministry.

Latest statistics show that every year in Guyana, hundreds of people die from suicide, which corresponds to roughly one death every day and a half. Suicide is among the three leading causes of death among those aged 15-44 years, and the second leading cause of death in the 10-24 age group. These figures do not include attempts, which are approximately 20-25 cases for every death by suicide in the country.

That meeting was called to appraise all key stakeholders on magnitude and burden of suicide in Guyana, examine the proposed suicide prevention plan and identify the critical elements for actions, define roles, responsibilities and functions of all partners, develop a joint work-plan and a monitoring and evaluation framework, prepare a draft budget and establish a technical task force to oversee the implementation of the initiative.

“The meeting agreed on a rapid establishment of a multi stakeholder task force to coordinate the work of the four strategic action areas and to provide feedback to the key Ministers and government,” the Public Health Ministry said.

According to the ministry, technical working groups each developed a short and medium term action plan of activities to for immediately implemented.

The meeting agreed to a wider stakeholder’s forum nationally involving all NGOs, CBOs and FBOs to coordinate regional level actions in the areas when the problem is most acute.