Suicide rate has significantly decreased – Public Health official

Although Guyana has been labelled as one of the Region’s most suicide-plagued countries, statistics over the past few years have proven differently.
This was according to Clinical Psychologist attached to the Public Health Ministry, Balogun Osunbiyi who explained that the suicide death rates in Guyana stood at 44.2 per cent in 2012.
Over the years, this high percentage has decreased with 2016 figures standing at 29 per cent and in 2017, 24.67 per cent. Although the figures for 2018 have not been officially released, this newspaper was told that suicide-related deaths were down by at least 50.
While these numbers may be good for the country, The Caribbean Voice had a different view on the matter.
In fact, the Managing Director of the agency, Bibi Ahamad, believes that the numbers have not decreased significantly and that the Health Ministry might be trying to paint this picture.
She said that the numbers suggested that the figures may have been reduced but many suicidal attempts are smeared when victims are rushed to the hospital and are treated.
Ahamad said that those persons die from heart failure a few days later and this does not record as a suicide case.
According to her, “The rate has not dropped significantly, but I know a lot of cases would not have been reported. Someone drinks gramoxone, they go to the hospital, the doctor gives them some saline and that person feels a little better and goes home and about two or three days after they pass away (so) that death certificate does not put the cause of death as poison but by failure of heart or something”.
Admitting that The Caribbean Voice does not have access to statistics, the Director complained that for some reason, the Government is quiet on figures relating to social ills, as many analyses are sometimes not even conducted or shared so that those ills can be addressed.
Osunbiyi, who spoke with the National Public Radio (NPR) in the United States, told the agency that there are many reasons for the country’s alarming rates of suicide.
Among the reasons he listed were a pervasive stigma about mental illness, access to lethal chemicals, alcohol misuse, interpersonal violence, family dysfunction and insufficient mental health resources.
The Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) conducted a study in 2017 which found that the leading cause of death was suicide among persons between the ages of 15 to 24 years old. Even more surprising was that those figures accounted for more than half of the deaths in persons between the ages of 20 and 24.
That study also found that most victims of suicide were males.

About caribvoice

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