While acknowledging suicide prevention is everybody’s business, the Government today has said it will lead in efforts to tackle the present trend.
On Sunday, 17 January 2016, several ministers including: Minister of Public Health; Minister within the Ministry of Public Health along with Minister of Indigenous Affairs; Minister of Social Protection; Minister of Tourism and Communication; Minister within the Ministry of Education and Minister within the Ministry of Communities, met with several stakeholders including; PAHO/ WHO, UNICEF, UNFPA, the Pesticides and Toxic Chemicals Control Board and health professionals to address the high incidence of suicide in Guyana.
The objective of this meeting on the Emergency Suicide Plan included:
1) Appraise all key stakeholders on magnitude and burden of suicide in Guyana;
2) Examine the proposed suicide prevention plan and identify the critical elements for actions;
3) Define roles, responsibilities and functions of all partners;
4) Develop a joint workplan and a monitoring and evaluation framework; 5) prepare a draft budget; and
6) Establish a technical task force to oversee the implementation of the initiative.
The Minister of Public Health welcomed the Ministers and other key partners to the forum and pointed out the importance of the meeting to the President and Cabinet. The Minister appealed for the involvement of all stakeholders and for an action oriented plan that will address the needs of the most vulnerable groups in society in an effort to curb the escalating trend in suicides in Guyana.
Participants were presented with a summary of the National Suicide Prevention Plan, 2015-2020, along with an overview of the current suicide statistics.
The National Suicide Prevention Plan as presented will provide guidance for the development of a joint work plan including a wide cross-section of partners. The work plan will enable collaboration among government ministries, international partners, NGOs, FBOs and other stakeholders. The proposed activities in this multi-sectorial approach will be aligned to one of four strategic action areas:
- Risk factors reduction, health promotion and prevention;
- Reducing access to the means of suicide;
- Improving health systems response to suicidal behavior; and
- Strengthening surveillance and research on suicide in Guyana.
The first strategic area of action explored the importance of: coordination and mobilization of the NGOs and FBOs at the community, regional and national level; the development of an Information Education Communication Framework which would be guided by appropriate language and messages to the public; and the use of consultations in relation to neglected areas such as Parenting Education, coping mechanisms, Youth Friendly spaces and the modification of the Health and Family Life Manual to address issues related to suicide in schools.
The second strategic action involved identifying the means of suicide and devising means of reducing access to pesticides, prescription meds, jumping, alcohol use and firearms. The most important plans indicated are the enforcement of regulation on the sale, distribution and storage of pesticides at all levels; the creation of Poison Control and Management Centers in affected communities with necessary training of persons; and following National Conventions and food and chemical safety goals directed towards the reduction in the use of pesticides especially those of high toxicity.
Strategic action number three entails our capacity (training and attitudes adapted) as health care providers, public servants and as a nation, on a whole, to respond to suicidal behaviour.
The fourth strategic action, responds to the need to improve data collection process through the creation of a multi- sectoral task force, and secretariat for the management and evaluation of data. This Action also corresponds to the dire need for research on the different determinants of suicidal behaviour specific to our cultural setting.
The meeting agreed on a rapid establishment of a multi stakeholder task force to coordinate the work of the four strategic action areas and to provide feedback to the key Minister and government.