(de Ware Tijd) PARAMARIBO – Every year, more people die of suicide than in traffic, says clinical psychologist and professor at the Anton de Kom University Tobi Graafsma.
He believes only a national approach to the high number of suicides can contain this phenomenon. Graafsma acts as chair of the first regional suicide prevention symposium of the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP), that is to be held in Suriname in May.
He considers a national suicide protocol and prevention program as the ultimate goal of this symposium. The report ‘Causes of Death’ published by the Health Ministry provides a good picture of the suicide issue up to 2011. Graafsma and his colleague Widya Punwasi, chair of the foundation Swarnapath/Mind Console Centre, present this report as a basis for their arguments. A peak occurred in 2008 with 148 successful suicide attempts, while this number dropped to 137 in 2010 and 127 in 2011. Although this points to a decreasing trend, the number of suicides is high compared to the annual average of one hundred traffic deaths.
“Suicide is a growing problem in the Caribbean and Suriname. In case someone has suicidal thoughts, a protocol could help provide the needed assistance.” There is no national suicide plan, but many isolated initiatives and ad-hoc research. “We want to get together and consider a national approach,” Graafsma explains. The most important goals of the symposium include raising awareness about the suicide problem, discuss backgrounds and causes, present results of scientific research and help develop a national policy. This is the first time the IASP, an organization of researchers and clinicians in the field of suicide prevention, co-organizes a symposium in the Caribbean. “This symposium is a unique opportunity, as it brings together internationally renowned scientists from countries including Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Cuba, the United States, Canada, Ireland, England, the Netherlands and India,” Punwasi says. The four-day symposium has a national and regional part, with the scientists holding presentations and workshops and sharing ‘best practices.’ Suriname’s participants will include policy makers, the Psychiatric Center Suriname (PCS), social workers, volunteers, the Academic Hospital (AZP) and the Emergency Room.