Desperate measures: When it comes to people taking their own lives, Guyana leads the world


[] – Guyana tends to do disappointingly, but not disastrously, in global rankings. It comes 121st out of 187 countries on the UN Development Programme’s human-development index; in the World Economic Forum’s latest competitiveness rankings, it comes 117th out of 144. But when it comes to suicide, Guyana is at the worst extreme (see chart).

20140913_AMC683A World Health Organisation (WHO) report published this month gives Guyana an age-standardised suicide rate of 44.2 per 100,000 inhabitants. That compares with a world average of 11.4, and a figure of 6.1 per 100,000 for low- and middle-income countries in the Americas (neighbouring Suriname, with a similar history and ethnic mix, does very badly, too).

The WHO numbers are adjusted to take account of countries’ differing age structures. Children are at less risk of suicide than adults, the elderly more so than the young. But using the unadjusted rate makes little difference to Guyana’s ranking—it lies third (after North and South Korea) for both sexes, and second (after Lithuania) for male suicides.

Statistics on suicide are notoriously unreliable. For religious and cultural reasons, many go unrecorded. But Guyana clearly has a big problem.

Men everywhere are more likely to kill themselves than women are, but the ratios in Guyana are heavily skewed towards males. Many drink weedkiller, a particularly distressing and protracted death. Most live in rural areas and are middle-aged or elderly (despite heavy media coverage of teenage suicides).

The Guyana Foundation, a recently created non-governmental organisation, this month released findings from a study based on in-depth interviews by Serena Coultress, a student at the Global Health programme at Maastricht University in the Netherlands. She talks of hopelessness and frustration among men who are unable to fulfil their expected role as provider, and who turn to domestic violence, alcohol abuse and, sometimes, suicide. The numbers show that Indo-Guyanese people are more at risk from suicide than Afro-Guyanese but that, she says, may simply be because most of the rural population is of Indian origin.

Chemistry has a role to play, too, says Professor Gerard Hutchinson, a psychiatrist who heads the department of clinical medical sciences at the University of the West Indies Trinidad campus. Guyanese agricultural workers and farmers may be overusing organophosphate herbicides and insecticides, which international studies suggest can lead to impulsive suicidal behaviour.

Guyana’s suicide rate has fallen by 8.5% since 2000, but much more needs to be done. Training workshops have been held to help identify people at risk, but there has been little follow-up activity. There is no functioning telephone helpline for people in distress, although the police have announced plans to set one up using civilian counsellors. Attempted suicide is a criminal offence in Guyana. The law is rarely used, but its existence helps set a pattern of stigma that the country can ill afford. (The Economist)



  1. My view is that some parents does not know how to deal with their child(ren). When their child(ren) meet a certain age range 15-19 they tend to be very strict and some being over protected. from a very young age parents should interact with their children and know how to thrust them and allow them to socialize and be with friends and parents should know all about the other friends. once you allow them to interact and socialize they wont do any negative thing causing them suicide. and also the boyfriend/girlfriend relationships they have and this happen due to the unconcern of parents.

  2. Are suicide bombers also counted!!
    Are martyrs counted?
    Are lovers counted?
    Are rape victims counted?
    Are very sick people counted?
    Are mentally ill people counted?
    Are mixed marriages counted?
    Are adultery counted?

    We cannot lump all together and form judgement.
    Guyana as a poor country do not have a social safety net like the USA and CANADA and many European countries.
    The developed countries pump so much money into programs and they still have suicide victims.
    This world is a very hostile place and if Guyanese do not prepare their children to meet the world, change will be elusive.
    The mindset is already ingrained.

  3. at a certain age when those hormones start acting up in a serious way ready willing and able for sex most parents dont know how to deal with their child..some parents lay a beating on their kid..some threaten them that is u go with this guy or that gyal dont come back home..its sheer pressure all around so they take their lives..indian parents tend to be stricter with their kids and some wont even allow them to be alone at certain times…they put watchman pon them especially their daughters..all this means is that east indian parents dont trust their kids..if they start trusting their kids then this killing self thing will come down big time..then there are the ladies that hitched with the rich they dont know its not about love…its all about money baby..dont kill yourself when you find out he fat-fowling other ladies…find another rich too sweet to take it..then we have those men who kill themselves and for what..oh yeah most of them deserved to die..they drink up their rum and or smoke up their dope then go home and beat their spouses and children..go kill yourself before you do that who cares..


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