A significant decline in the suicide rate is not possible

Dear Editor,

Recently, sections of the local media inaccurately cited the statistics on suicide from the World Health Organization (WHO) when they reported that Guyana’s suicide rate stands at 20.6 per 100,000 in 2015. Editor, there is no truth to this. A visit to the WHO website (http://www.who.int/mental_health/prevention/suicide/suicideprevent/en/)

revealed a suicide rate of 30.6 per 100,000 inhabitants in 2015, which is significantly higher than what is reported by the local media. Such inaccuracy spurs widespread speculation that the media may be hiding the suicide problem for political reasons. Further, WHO reported a sharp increase in suicide for the year 2012 (44.2 per 100,000 inhabitants) and then a robust drop in 2015.  I remain sceptical about such statistics. A significant decline in the suicide rate is not rationally possible. How can there be such a huge reduction in the suicide rate when the primary triggers to this problem remain unaddressed and any kind of therapeutic intervention remains severely limited?

One needs to be cautious about the suicide statistics because of mountainous problems.  Although WHO is a reputable and well-respected organization, it needs to be clear that WHO acknowledges that data from numerous countries are of poor quality due to inherent problems of under-reporting and misclassification. Furthermore, the accuracy of such statistics remains questionable due to poor data collection methods and procedures in this country.  Moreover, it does not surprise me one bit that the suicide data are deliberately manipulated through political influence when considering the lawlessness in this country.  Clearly, multiple problems reduce the accuracy, validity, and reliability of the suicide statistics.  Importantly, these issues cannot be ignored when interpreting and drawing conclusions from such statistics.

I reasoned that a significant reduction in suicide can only come about by addressing the abnormally high levels of stress arising out of the social, economic and political conditions.  Stress mechanistically drives suicide directly or indirectly. Although such an intricate dynamic is working to propel suicide, it must also be recognized that genes can augment this problem. Sadly, this dynamic remains unaddressed.

Specifically, a reduction in suicide requires reducing the massive unemployment rate, reducing the massive crime rate, curbing widespread discrimination, ending dysfunctional leadership, stamping out corruption and appreciating ethnic diversity and bringing much-needed skills, among a slew of others.

Unfortunately, as it stands, the Minis-try of Social Protection hurts Guyanese rather than helps them.  This has been my personal experience.

Furthermore, a robust reduction in the suicide rate can only come about by eliminating the primary triggers of suicide together with making available meaningful therapeutic interventions (counselling, community support, reducing access to pesticides, etc).

It needs to be noted that although therapeutic interventions are appreciated, valued and necessary, they cannot alone bring down the suicide rate and are band aid approaches with marginal and transient gains if any at all, because victims can relapse.

Yours faithfully,

Annie Baliram

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