State should review decriminalization of suicide – Parliamentary Committee

Kaieteur News, Guyana, Mar 17, 2018:
#suicideprevention The bipartisan Parliamentary Sectoral Committee on Social Services has developed a series of recommendations in response to the societal scourge of suicide.
Among the recommendations is a call for the National Assembly to review the legislation with regard to the decriminalization of suicide and the need for comprehensive mental health legislation.
The committee which is chaired by APNU+AFC Member, John Adams, tabled its seventh periodic report in the National Assembly on Thursday.
Recently, Caribbean Voice advocated for suicide to be struck from the law books as a crime. Caribbean Voice is a Non Governmental organisation [NGO] with a local and international presence, which embraces an anti-violence stance.
According to Coordinator of its Guyana Chapter, Mr. Nazim Hussain, statistics show that those who died as a result of self-harm might have tried as much as 20 to 25 times before they were successful.

According to experts, seeking the requisite help is often not an option when families become aware that one of their members attempted suicide.
This, Hussain said, is due to the criminalisation of the act of suicide and its associated penalty.
It is believed though that if suicide was decriminalised, persons’ relatives would have ensured that they seek and get the requisite mental health support.
Recent trends highlighted by PAHO/WHO Director, Dr. William Adu-Krow, suggest that Guyana’s suicide rate had fallen to 20.6 per 100,000 people.
In 2012 Guyana was reported to have the highest suicide rate in the world. However, by 2015, when a Sustainable Development Goals [SDGs] review was conducted, it was found that the rate had considerably declined.
A 2012 WHO report indicated that Guyana had a suicide rate of 44.2 per 100,000 people, and that for every single female suicide, there were 3.2 male suicides. By comparison, it was revealed that neighbouring territories Suriname had a suicide rate of 27.8 per 100,000, and Venezuela’s rate was 2.6 per 100,000.
The Parliamentary report also recommended the development of effective surveillance systems to measure progress which will help determine and design effective interventions.
“There should be accurate reporting systems that would allow for the accurate reflection of suicide statistics and programmes to train Health Care Providers and Social Workers in the next five years,” the report states.
It was noted that modern laws should be developed to limit and control access to toxic substances used as a means for suicide, as well as to restart programmes to safely lock away commonly used pesticides.
The parliamentary committee also stated that the scholarship programme be accelerated to train health care providers and counsellors on mental health within the next five years.
Another recommendation is for the establishment of a National Poison Centre; a database of victims and antidotes to common poisons.
The committee highlighted the greater need for advocacy and dialogue on mental care and detection of depression and suicidal motivations.
Government, according to the committee, should provide additional financial support to NGOs to enhance their budgets and enable the environment for the Mental Health Unit and NGOs to provide psycho-social support.
Last year, a motion on suicide brought to the National Assembly by the opposition, was defeated.

About caribvoice

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