October 26, 1999
The rate at which people kill themselves has increased significantly over the past years. And this year, were there statistics available, might prove to be the highest so far.
Studies published in the United States and the United Kingdom indicate that relationship problems are the most common reasons for suicide. In many cases, a serious argument with a partner precedes suicide or attempted suicide. This, from reports, seems to be also true in Guyana, along with disturbed family relationships. Alcohol and drugs affect thinking and reasoning and can act as depressants. They also decrease inhibitions making it more likely for a depressed person to attempt suicide while under the influence.
Other factors which tip the scales are the disintegration of the extended family through in most cases emigration and economics; the simple realisation by some people that they never achieve the material successes of their peers. Young people who suffer physical or sexual abuse are at increased risk for suicidal or parasuicidal behaviour. Recently, testing HIV positive or the onset of AIDS has also become a risk factor.
It is believed that men commit suicide roughly three times more often than women. According to the experts, this is because men are less likely to ask for help, believing that to do so is unmanly. Women, on the other hand, attempt suicide about three times more often than men. A majority of the incidents of parasuicide or self harm by women are mild and seemingly arise for a varied number of reasons. Those who are parasuicidal are at greater risk of eventually dying by suicide as the number of repeat attempts will increase the danger.
It is also accepted that younger people commit and attempt suicide far more often than older persons and that high stress, together with easy access to the means are important factors.
The most commonly used method of suicide is self-poisoning, by both sexes. Men are more likely than women to cut, shoot or hang themselves; women seem to favour burning themselves.
Human Services Minister, Indra Chandarpal, on Thursday announced plans to set up a "family mediation centre" in Berbice where persons could access stress management and counselling. The centre, she said, was intended as a pilot project and Berbice was chosen because most of the recorded suicides occurred there. The centre as envisaged by Ms Chandarpal would provide an area for physical exercise, yoga and would feature punching bags, for persons who feel the need to hit out and music. The minister acknowledged that it was a bold project and so it is. It is also a long-term project. Besides finding or erecting a building and putting in the necessary infrastructure and accoutrements, those responsible for implementing the project will also have to look at training personnel to run the centre. Ideally, these should include stress and suicide counsellors and exercise instructors.
In the meantime, however, the Ministry of Human Services may want to examine instituting suicide hotlines. While this would also require some training, operators needing specific knowledge on how to handle the parasuicidal, it can be effected in the short term and eventually work along with the stress centre. Another plus for such a move is that the anonymity of the telephone offers a no-risk way of talking about problems.
There are no immediate and easy solutions to suicide, complex as it is. But perhaps as a start, we can each consider our attitudes towards others. Helplessness and hopelessness are acute pull factors towards the poison, knife or rope.
A © page from: Guyana: Land of Six Peoples