By Kurt Campbell
[www.inewsguyana.com] – Head of the Presidential Secretariat Dr. Roger Luncheon has challenged recent reports in the media on Guyana’s suicide rate; saying the numbers presented are “widely over-estimated.”
He said Cabinet continues to feel uncomfortable; explaining that the statistics provided by international bodies including the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) are not consistent with recorded data collected by national entities, particularly the Ministry of Health and the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) of the Guyana Police Force.
But despite relying on the recorded data of these agencies, Dr. Luncheon had none to share. When asked, he said there continue to be calls at Cabinet for the raw numbers to be released but those calls have not been unanimous.
He said too that the figures at the MOH are the basis for the reports circulated by WHO and PAHO; adding that other statistical requirements are applied to those figures to allow for country ranking. “The raw numbers will not allow for comparison… and therein lays the difficulty.”
He said Cabinet efforts at reconciliation have however been undisputed. Cabinet will be looking into the accuracy of the reports, Dr. Luncheon said.
Guyana is said to be doing 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 said to be at the worst extreme.
A World Health Organisation report published last 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 according to reports, 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.
While statistics on suicide are notoriously unreliable and many go unrecorded, local organizations believe Guyana has a big problem.