Suicide prevention and care


Dear Editor,
FOUR years ago, the World Health Organisation reported that Guyana had the highest suicide rate in the world. As the country was sent in a panic over this surprising statistic, the Ministry of Public Health launched its “National Suicide Prevention Plan” and other organisations created campaigns geared toward providing help to persons affected by depression, suicidal thoughts, etc. However, this “surprise” shouldn’t be surprising at all. In our society, there aren’t many places that offer professional, reliable help. Yes, there are places, but are they available on every two corners like a rum shop? In addition to that, some environments hinder the expression of people. Sharing our bad feelings is often deemed as a form of weakness or as a vulnerable characteristic flaw that shouldn’t be tolerated. Building strength doesn’t mean taking away our vulnerabilities.

Our vulnerabilities can make us stronger by acknowledging their existence. Despite that belief occasionally “coming from a good place”, it can cause isolation amongst other negatively impactful practices. As such, it is important for people to fully comprehend ways to be more vigilant, honest and express our willingness to help. Even though we can’t say the ideal phrases to a person in need, we can always offer a simple but potent comfort. “If I can’t help you, I will help you to get help”. That’s a tagline that ASPIRE Youth Network Guyana uses during its facilitative sessions with youth.

A common misconception is that suicide is selfish. Ultimately, none of us can see a person hurting mentally. We can see the physical symptoms that can accompany depression, but unless we are the prototype of Professor Xavier, we can’t see what others feel. However, we can acknowledge the warning signs of a person that may be sad or depressed. There are reasons why people say that statement. People can say suicide is selfish to shift the blame on the person that died. Families and friends affected by the loss of their loved one can experience situational depression, substance abuse etc. Persons experiencing suicidal thoughts can experience distorted thinking due to their overwhelming feelings of depression, emotional detachment from their loved ones, despair etc. This distorted thinking can prevent persons from perceiving reality. As reality can be interpreted in a number of ways, depression can serve as an influencing factor in how a person perceives himself/herself in the lives of their family or friends. All of that being said, how can we prevent suicide? Some people remind the person of their vibrant life and its possibilities or they talk about the effect their death can have on their family. However, an approach like this isn’t effective, since it doesn’t address the problem. Depression usually occurs for a number of reasons. I prefer to not list reasons, since I believe that a person’s sadness or depressive symptoms cannot be categorised by which is the most severe.

In relation to suicide, the Criminal Offences Act contains a deeply flawed law. Section 96 contains the following excerpt. “Everyone who attempts to commit suicide shall be guilty of a misdemeanour and liable to imprisonment for two years.” Now that fact is surprising. Weirdly enough, this particular section doesn’t take any consideration in providing professional help to persons who have survived a suicide attempt. After a suicide attempt, a person will need a strong support system that can ensure that their life doesn’t feel as hopeless as it did before. Furthermore, there can be a sense of disapproval from the persons who would have been ultimately affected by this suicidal attempt. This shame or guilt felt by the friends and family of the survivor can cause them to try to make things better. This can be positive or negative, depending on the course of action taken. A negative course of action would be informing the person of the “mistake” they would have committed if they had died. A positive course of action would be listening to what the person says or doesn’t say. Afterward, you can provide an infinite amount of support through advocating the importance of taking care of their mental health and sharing information on places to go for professional help. It must be noted that the survivor’s family or counsellor would need to know what caused them to commit suicide in the first place. Once you are fully aware of what might have transpired, you can think of different methods that can aid them in having a healthy recovery.

For this article, I’ve remained stable. However, there are days when I don’t feel like this. Sometimes, I can feel like I’m invisible and just “going through the motions.” I’ve noticed that I am not the only person who feels like this. Perhaps, you have felt or are currently feeling something like that. I can’t see who you are and I may never have the chance to know you. The real you. Not the person you pretend to be at work, to your friends or on social media. The person you view yourself as. We may not know each other, but we should always remember that we aren’t alone. Our experiences can make us feel far more connected than blood. I hope that you have a strong support system as I do. If you don’t have one, you can send a message ASPIRE Youth Network Facebook Page. We are a group of young people who also have good and bad days. If we can’t help you, we will help you to get help.

Juliana Lopes,
ASPIRE Youth Network Guyana