Guyanese willing to engage in suicide prevention but hesitant to intervene in domestic violence


A recent poll, commissioned by The Caribbean Voice, found that almost everyone interviewed knew of someone who had committed or attempted suicide.  Also, almost everyone said they believe suicide can be prevented with timely intervention. Asked if they think suicide can be prevented, 92% said yes, 3% said no and 5% had no response.

Do you think suicide can be prevented?

Yes No Not Sure
92 3 5

Asked if they would be willing to try to prevent someone from committing suicide if they know the person was thinking of doing so, 96% said yes, with no one saying no and 4% providing no answer.

Responding to the findings, Norkah Carter, head of The Caribbean Voice’s technical team, wondered why is it that the suicide rate keeps increasing, in spite of the fact that almost everyone said they are willing to help prevent suicide. “What could or would people be willing to do?” she asked.

Since the launch of its suicide prevention campaign, The Caribbean Voice has been engaged in intensive efforts to involve other stakeholders, NGOs and individuals but response has been less than expected. In fact, in spite of a massive multi-tiered publicity campaign to launch the outreach program at Black Bush Polder, attendance at three of the venues was poor while at the fourth venue no one turned up. It seemed almost as if people had become resigned to the situation and didn’t seem to feel that any of intervention would make a significant difference.

Ms. Carter also suggested that perhaps the people just don’t know what to do and in their helplessness are waiting for the government to intervene, especially since the poll also found that people feel the government is not doing enough to address suicide.

If you know someone who is thinking of committing suicide, would you be willing to try to prevent that person from doing so?

Yes No Not Sure
96 0 4

The poll also found that almost everyone interviewed were aware of at least one person who had suffered or is suffering from domestic abuse. When asked if they would intervene to stop domestic abuse if they see it occurring, 66% of respondents said yes, 19% said no, because its not their business and 15% were not sure, but may intervene depending on the situation.

If you see someone abusing his or her partner would you intervene to stop it?

Yes No Not Sure
66 19 15

Most people said they don’t wish to get involved in husband-wife quarrels, pointing out that the ‘peacemaker’ usually ends up being the enemy. This perspective is an old one that still seems to hold a lot of currency both in Guyana and the Diaspora.

Guyana leads the world in suicides per capita, with 44.2 suicides per 100,000 persons or about 333 suicides per year. At a globally estimated 25 attempts per suicide, Guyana would have over 6660 attempted suicides a year. Also suicide is the leading cause of death among young people ages 15-24 and the third leading cause of death among persons ages 25-44, while in the 15-19 age group, it is the leading cause of death among females and the second leading cause of death among males.

Suicide is usually triggered by copycatting, a practice referred to as the Werther Effect; alcoholism; abusive and dysfunctional relationships; lack of empathetic communication and teenage affairs and pregnancy. In fact, Guyana has the second highest rate of teenage pregnancy in the Caribbean with an estimated 97 teenage girls between the ages of 15-19 out of 1000 becoming pregnant each year. Also, the average Guyanese drinker consumes 13.7 liters of pure alcohol each year with 6.1% of the population considered heavy drinkers (2010 figures). With respect to domestic violence, of the more than 60 percent of women who were involved in a relationship or union, 27.7 percent reported physical abuse, 26.3 percent had experienced verbal abuse and 12.7 percent experienced sexual violence (media reports, year not given).

All women who are victims of domestic violence are at risk of being murdered by their abusers. Last year, twenty-nine domestic violence-related murders occurred, with 21 of the victims being women and girls. Six of the victims were children, with the youngest being eight months old and the oldest 15. In addition, two 17-year-old girls were among the victims. And, in a number of cases, the perpetrators of these murders ended up committing suicide. In fact, the nexus between suicide and domestic violence is significant. Also, one out of every four women who are the victims of domestic violence, attempt suicide.

The poll randomly interviewed 410 respondents, to yield a demographically representative sample (44% Indians, 30% Africans, 16% Mixed, 9% Amerindians, and 1% other races) of the population. The poll was conducted in face-to-face interviews and was coordinated by New York-based pollster Dr. Vishnu Bisram. The results of the poll were analyzed at a 95% significance level with a statistical sampling error of plus or minus four percentage points.

About caribvoice

Free lance journalist, educator and community activist. Guyana born New York based.
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