APNU calls for gov’t plan to curb suicides

The main opposition APNU is calling on the government to announce a plan to curb suicides in Guyana.

The call was made by APNU MP Dr George Norton at a press conference yesterday ahead of the observance of World Suicide Prevention Day, which is to be marked on September 10, and is aimed at promoting worldwide action to prevent suicides.

Norton charged that the government’s complacency towards suicide contributes to the continuation of the crisis.

“APNU considers the PPP/C administration’s attempts to implement coherent strategies aimed at reducing and preventing the incidence of suicide to be unsatisfactory, unsubstantial and unsuccessful,” Norton said, while adding that the establishment of a National Committee for Suicide Prevention (NCSP) six years ago under the chairmanship of the Minister of Home Affairs failed to curb the suicide epidemic and that the “so-called National Suicide Prevention Strategy” has apparently been abandoned.

“APNU points to evidence that almost weekly suicides claim the lives of more young persons,” he further said.

Norton noted that in 2000, clinical and forensic psychiatrist Dr. Frank Beckles had commissioned a landmark study, “The Shadow of Death: A recent study of suicides in Guyana, Incidence, Causes and Solutions,” which aroused the government’s interest.

Dr. Beckles, he said, found that there had been 501 reported cases of suicide deaths between 1995 and 1999, with the majority of those committing suicide being young males below the age of 35 years. They were likely to be poorly educated, employed in a low-income occupation, to reside in the same community all their lives and to be less likely to have children, he added.

Norton said official statistics confirmed the gravity of Dr. Beckles’ conclusions. “Suicide finally came to be recognised as a serious public health issue in Guyana. Data indicated that suicide is the leading cause of death among young people age 15-24 and the third leading cause of death among persons age 25-44 with averages of between 150 to 200 deaths annually,” he noted.

He also said then Minister of Health Dr. Leslie Ramsammy reported in September 2010 that more than 5,000 persons had lost their lives to suicide in the previous 25 years.

“The government must use the occasion of World Suicide Prevention Day next Tuesday to announce a new plan to deal with this crisis!” Norton emphasised.

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