Suicide is not about unhappy people

According to Guyana’s President, David Granger, unhappy people commit suicide. The President has publicly stated this on a number of occasions, seemingly giving the impression that this explains everything: one is unhappy, thus, one commits suicide. Had this really been the case then a majority of the world’s population would have been committing suicide. The reality, however, is that this is a simplistic, perhaps even reductionist perspective, about a complex, multi faceted issue, and one would really hope that given his reputation as a scholar and researcher, President Granger, would not pronounce in such a manner on an issue that is nearing epidemic proportions in Guyana.
Yes indeed, people may be unhappy leading up to the act of finality but it is not the happiness in itself that leads to suicide; rather it is the factor or combination of factors that create the unhappiness and the agonizing pain – physical, psychological, emotional – that drives suicide.
Regarding research that the President has also called for, a number of times, The Caribbean Voice is of the view that additional research is really not a priority as factors that drive suicide have already been documented by various researchers and studies. Essentially these are abusive and dysfunctional relationships; teenage affairs and pregnancy; rape and incest; an inability to deal with problems and challenges (lack of coping skills) and/or unbearable pain – physical or emotional – which generally give rise to awful agony and depression and feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, powerlessness and loneliness.
In the context of Guyana also, suicide has become normative, to a certain extent, and thus is not only seen as a solution to life’s challenges but also as just another choice instead of a last, desperate option. Furthermore, suicidal mindsets are prone to copycatting, a practice referred to as the Werther Effect and catalyzed by alcoholism; lack of empathetic communication and low levels of self-acceptance and/or feelings of inadequacy.
The President has also hit upon the approaches to addressing suicide, all of which have been in the public domain for quite a while now. So yes a collaborative approach involving all stakeholders nationally is an ideal but in this respect we must point out that the prevailing overwhelming focus on Georgetown negates the national collaborative approach. There is critical need to reach into communities and rural areas throughout Guyana, in order to include them in any suicide prevention campaign. Secondly, the approach must be multilayered and encompassing, so as to address all the factors. At the crux of this campaign should be a priority on an integrated health care system as advocated by the World Health Organization, with basic mental health training provided to all health care workers and other stakeholders; especially given that for many, depression precedes the act of suicide and also because individuals dealing with mental and physical health issues often end up committing suicide. Additional measures, some of which have already been promised, must include:
➢ placement of counselors in schools, which was supposed to have started since February;
➢ introduction of the Health and Family Program in schools, especially focusing on social and empowerment issues including self esteem, self-forgiveness and self acceptance;
➢ bringing back the Gatekeepers Program, hand in hand with a ‘Train The Trainers’ Program so that every community can have eyes and ears that will act proactively to tackle suicide prevention and related issues;
➢ establishment of a support network to ease the effects of poverty, unemployment and under employment, and that must include skills training for the young in a concerted and holistic manner rather than randomly and selectively;
➢ legal enforcement of laws (to include raising the age of consent to 18 and establishing a registry of sex offenders) to address abuse, especially partner and sexual abuse and mechanisms in place to help victims of abuse deal with the trauma and other effects of their abuse;
➢ putting in place measures to address pesticide suicide – the Shri Lanka Model or something similar;
➢ an ongoing campaign to develop self esteem and coping skills;
➢ an ongoing education campaign to counter myths and misinformation and arm citizens with facts, information and suicide prevention strategies;
➢ measures in place, supported by legal enforcement, to curb alcoholism and drug use.
The bottom line is that neither is there need to reinvent the wheel or to expend huge sums of money. A genuine collaborative approach, with inclusive planning, coordination, mapping and oversight, where volunteerism is a key facet, and entities at all levels can be incorporated, will make it not that difficult to implement these measures and maintain a national focus with respect to suicide prevention. The Caribbean Voice stands ready to lend its humble efforts to such an endeavor.


About caribvoice

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