With Guyana being listed in a recent global study as having the world’s highest suicide rate, the opposition coalition APNU+AFC is promising strategies to help combat the problem, with special focus on Berbice, where it has been found to be most prevalent.
“Guyana is ripped apart every time a young person dies,” APNU+AFC supporter and social activist Supriya Singh-Bodden told a rally in Whim Berbice last Sunday.
“We in the APNU+AFC can hear what you are saying to us. We get it and we ask you all to hold on to life. It does not have to be this way. We need your help to put this right,” she declared.
Singh-Bodden explained to attendees that she was not on the platform to speak of politics but to have a conversation with them on issues, such as suicide and alcoholism, which have been plaguing the county, and to discuss measures to tackle them. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) global report on suicide prevention, which was published last year, Guyana has the highest suicide rate in the world.
A study of underlying economic and social factors driving the high prevalence of suicide and suicidal behaviour in Guyana was also conducted by researcher Serena Coultress, who reported that the problem is linked to poor coping skills and a cycle of violence that includes murder-suicide, interpersonal violence, corporal punishment and child sexual abuse.
“These are inextricably linked, fueling one another, and are amplified by predominant notions of masculinity, family dysfunctions, sexual inequality and alcohol abuse—all of which are major catalysts for the poor coping strategies found across ethnic groups,” the Guyana Foundation, which was founded by Singh-Bodden, had said in a press release announcing Coultress’ findings.
Health Minister Dr Bheri Ramsaran had told Stabroek News after the WHO report was released that his ministry has long recognised suicide as a problem and has been working towards addressing it.
Critics have said the PPP/C in successive administrations over 22 consecutive years has not taken effective measures to address the problem.
This position was echoed on Sunday by Singh-Bodden, who promised that should the coalition be elected, strategies would be implemented to tackle the scourge “head on.” “We need your help to put this right. We make a pact with you here tonight, that if you are one of those young people, we are reaching out our hands to you and are asking you to take it. Give us a chance to bring to pass, for all, jobs and much needed counselling services. Healing, happiness and smiles to your faces once again,” she said, drawing acknowledgements from the crowd and especially the women present.
Singh-Bodden, who has been raising awareness about the especially high suicide rates here, explained that she has received no support from government to help in her cause. She said that over the last two years she has zeroed in on Berbice and has been working with communities to tackle the problem. Singh-Bodden has written material, which documents her field work in suicide in Guyana, but pointed out that while government did not want to highlight her findings here, a total of 750 international news agencies published her work on Guyana’s suicide crisis.
“I have spent the last two years trying to raise awareness about the crisis of suicide in Guyana, but particularly in Berbice… I have written to the government of Guyana and they have not even have the manners to reply to me,” she lamented.
“The world knows we have a problem. They are watching us and we have to fix that problem. How can people take us seriously when people are dying like dogs, being flung to the side of the road while the government speeds on/” she questioned.
Singh-Bodden pointed out that from research-based assessments, the coalition knows that contributing factors for suicide among the young are lack of jobs and opportunities that can foster their development. She said the hopelessness plunges them into depression and some feel that death is their only escape.
She assured a frontal and holistic plan to reduce suicide if the coalition is given the opportunity to govern Guyana.
“We have new development and infrastructural plans in the pipelines; the areas of agriculture, food processing, manufacturing and fisheries, to name a few. We have the intention [and] ability to make Guyana a global player and which will not leave citizens behind scrapping crumbs. We will give you a chance to work hard and become wealthy and successful,” Singh-Bodden promised.