Another World Suicide Prevention Day was observed on Saturday September 10 but the government did not release any figures to show we had lost our ranking with the #1 suicide rate in the world.
For decades, like hypertension within individuals, suicide had been the “silent killer” within Guyanese society but only after determined efforts by NGO’s to highlight the extent of the scourge, there was recognition by the government and then, notoriety internationally.
One of the reasons for the persistence of our high rate of suicide has been the studied refusal of the authorities to examine and address the specificities of the phenomenon here. Take the case of suicide being the source of the highest number of deaths in our youths. For instance, as was reported in the Guyana Times of Sept 10, alcohol consumption in Region 1 by Amerindian youths is extremely high and this continues into adulthood.
In the past, there was stricter state and community control over the sale of alcohol in Amerindian communities because of their demonstrated lower tolerance for the substance. However of recent, this control has been loosened to the point of being non-existent. Yet there have not been any studies done to examine whether there is any linkage between increased use of alcohol and the rising rate of suicide among young Amerindians.
It is our considered opinion that the linkage is self-evident since as was reported in the Guyana Times piece, some youths have killed themselves by imbibing alcohol in the same manner as if it were a poison. To address suicide in the Amerindian communities the wider problem of alcohol abuse will also have to be tackled since it is a contributory factor. As such there can be no quick fixes but rather sustained interventions at the local levels by the authorities at the local and national levels.
Last week there was one more report in the media of a young man on the coastland who consumed alcohol to the point of becoming drunk and on returning home was upbraided severely by his mother. He responded by hanging himself. There have been numerous instances of this kind of behaviour, but predominantly located in the Indian Guyanese community.
Another variant in the same community would be for the boy or girl to have developed a liaison with the opposite sex that the parents consider “inappropriate”. The youth is upbraided and responds by committing suicide. In fact youths from this community have committed suicide after any manner of severe reprimand from their parents. To address this form of suicide, one had to understand the root of the problem which one theory claims lies in “retroflexive anger”.
It has been hypothesised that in this community, children are socialised not to “talk back” to their parents. Therefore when they are upbraided for what the parent or authority figure believe to be unjustified reasons, they cannot express their frustration which then develops into anger. The bottled up anger is then turned back or “retroflexed” into the psyche of the individual, who must find an outlet.
In those instances where the family bonds are strong and the youth knows the parent loves him or her, in order to express the hurt against the latter, the youth commits suicide. The family member is hurt, but unfortunately the youth is not around to benefit from the lesson taught.
In this type of induced suicide or other self destructive behaviour like “cutting”, there must be programmes in the identified communities to permit increased communication flowing from child to parent.