The alarming suicide rate in this country seems surprising. However, it shouldn’t be. The World Health Organization (WHO) in 2014 placed Guyana on top of the list of countries in suicide rankings. Guyana easily cruises into the top spot with a fourfold higher suicide rate as compared to global figures. All indicators are that Guyana will remain a top contender for a long time to come. This scourge will linger on bearing in mind the fact that the society is overburdened with stress that goes unheeded. Stress has damaging effects on the brain. It compromises mental health by rewiring neural circuitries disrupting equilibrium. It is to be remembered that folks who are depressed are also more likely to commit suicide. Stress should be pinned down as one of the culprits driving this problem.
Who will disagree that our lives are burdened by unbearable stress emanating from poverty, dysfunctional politics and corruption? Such a toxic dynamic hatches a spectrum of secondary problems which take a heavy toll on our lives. Given this the suicide rate should not surprise any of us one bit. However, we fail to link societal stress to the suicide rate. This is echoed each time a victim is added to the death toll. Families of victims innocently say that they were unaware that loved ones were hurting. How can anyone not know? Our response is always one of surprise. We look no further than our doorsteps to make sense of this problem. Surely, we need to widen the net to include society when searching for causes.
A report from the WHO says that three-quarters of all global suicides occur in low- and middle -income countries, which suggests that economic hardship is a factor, and economic hardship is an inducer of stress. One might rightly ask, that given the fact we are all in the same boat why we are not all committing suicide. However, it must be noted that while we are all in the same boat many of us are on different decks, ie, there are individual differences. There are those who can cope and there are those who are incapable of coping due to biological, social and psychological differences. Those incapable of coping resort to alcoholism and suicide as escape routes.
There is no need to kid ourselves that hiding pesticides, ropes and other methods used to commit suicide will address this problem. This strategy isn’t going to get us anywhere. Folks who are stressed will find a way to seek out alternative means of killing themselves. It is even more ridiculous when we enlist police officers to tackle this problem. What we need are social workers, psychologists, clergymen and politicians whose priorities are to create jobs, increase educational opportunities and create safety nets for those who are being drowned by social pressures. Stress needs to be significantly minimized to put a dent in the suicide rate.
Cecil Dilip Kumar