As Guyana joins the rest of the world in observing World Suicide Prevention Day, under the theme “Creating Hope through Action”, the Human Services and Social Security Ministry has revealed that during the first half of 2021, 30 children attempted suicide with 25 being females.
Recent studies show the COVID-19 pandemic had a serious impact on mental health wellness among adolescents and adults. Most worrisome in Guyana, there have been 147 suicides thus far for 2021, with 120 being men. Nineteen of those were persons 5-19 years while 109 were between 20 and 60 years. Regions Three (Essequibo Islands-West Demerara); Four (Demerara-Mahaica), and Six (East Berbice-Corentyne) accounted for the largest numbers of those deaths.
Reports revealed that approximately 30 per cent of children aged 15-19 years could not share their problems with anyone. This alarming trend signals the need for adults to recognise the pre-emptive signs, identify the triggers, and offer critical support through listening in a non-judgmental or understanding way, creating a support network and being proactive in getting that young person professional help if necessary and developing a trustworthy relationship that invites confidence.
The Ministry said that it stands with Guyana and the rest of the world in recognising the importance of tangible interventions to save lives.
In 2016, Human Services and Social Security Minister, Dr Vindhya Persaud piloted a motion in Parliament to decriminalise suicide in Guyana which unfortunately was not supported.
The Minister believes that this was an important step that must be taken, which would tangibly recognise the need to treat and support persons who struggle with mental health issues that may lead to suicide.
Suicidal thoughts are often the result of difficulties coping with mental health. Persons may turn to alcohol, isolate themselves from others, and demonstrate irritability. The effects of being persistently alone and worried may have forced some into drug use, self-harm, disturbing thoughts, withdrawal, and depression.
The call to action to stimulate hope is a necessary reminder to everyone that suicide is preventable. What is required is collectivity in awareness, accurate information dissemination, and the concern for each other to not dismiss any person when they express suicidal intent or exhibit signs of depression or other mental health issues.
Anyone who attempted suicide would be able to speak of the stigma surrounding mental health and illness as demoralising and crippling, pushing them further into an abyss of hopelessness. Unless we can stop treating it as a taboo subject and peel away the layers of societal insensitivity and treat attempts for what they are – a cry for help, we will continue to see the relentless surge of self-harm.
The Ministry has rolled out a series of programmes that target the core of vulnerable communities to equip them with the necessary tools to face the world and play a valuable part in society.
Recently, the Ministry unveiled its Women Innovation and Investment Network (WIIN) to empower women and girls and provides hope for a promising future, through meaningful careers and financial independence.
The Ministry is rolling out its skills training programme for persons living with disabilities to provide them with the practical skills that will afford them the opportunity of finding employment or becoming entrepreneurs.
The toll-free 914 hotline is available for persons to call and report acts of domestic and sexual violence. They can speak to trained social workers or survivor advocates who will assist them.
Additionally, through the Child Care and Protection Agency (CCPA), the Ministry also offers support to children who may be having a hard time coping.
The Human Services and Social Security Ministry reminds persons that they do not have to feel alone and that there are avenues through the Ministry where persons can get the help and support needed.