Guyana: mental illness, witchcraft, and the highest suicide rate in the world

Seawall

Registered User
Guyana: mental illness, witchcraft, and the highest suicide rate in the world
Stigma against mental illness and a lack of psychiatrists means the small South American country has to work hard to protect those at risk


Rum Shack Bar in West Indies, Guinness and pepsi logos are shown and four men are sat chatting
Health workers have pointed to the prevalence of alcohol abuse in attempts to explain Guyana’s shockingly high suicide rate. Photograph: David Preutz/Alamy
Farahnaz Mohammed
Follow @FarahColette on Twitter.

Wednesday 3 June 2015 07.20 EDT Last modified on Wednesday 3 June 2015 17.13 EDT

At a staggering rate of 44.2 suicides per 100,000 people (the global average is 16 per 100,000) the small nation of Guyana in South America has the highest rate of suicide in the world. And with fewer than 10 full-time psychiatrists in the country, a shortage of social workers or psychologists and no operating crisis hotline, there are limited options for those seeking help.

No one factor can explain Guyana’s shockingly high suicide rate. Health workers have pointed to the deep poverty in rural areas, the prevalence of alcohol abuse (which is notorious for its contribution to successful suicides) and the ease of access to deadly substances. Some scholars have theorised that exposure to certain herbicides and pesticides used in the country makes farmers more prone to suicidal behaviour.

Because of a strong stigma and a lack of resources in Guyana, suicide as a public health issue has fallen by the wayside. Efforts by the ministry of health in the last few years have been nominal, and those interventions that have taken place seem misguided at best.
Savitri Persaud, a doctoral candidate at York University who has done extensive research on mental illness in Guyana, highlighted the inadequacies of one recent government initiative.

One of the most frequently used suicide methods in the country is the ingestion of pesticide. As many people are farmers, pesticides are readily available and contribute significantly to the high suicide rate. In response, the government distributed storage cabinets with locks to farmers who won a lottery, with the aim of limiting accessibility and encouraging safe usage. In the initial stage, 10 farmers received cabinets, with the total number distributed said to be only 150.

“That is not suicide prevention. That is not proactive, that is reactive,” says Persaud. “We need to think twice about our knee-jerk responses.”

Restricting access to potentially lethal means, such as firearms, ropes or poisons, is a necessary part of prevention but is not of itself sufficient. Effective suicide prevention involves intervention on an individual level – psychologically and physiologically – and also in the wider community.

In Guyana, Persaud notes the powerful effect of stigma and the importance of grassroots intervention. Mental illness is misunderstood in the country, with symptoms often mistakenly attributed to witchcraft (known locally as obeah). Communities often ostracise sufferers, and on occasion have physically assaulted them, at times with the endorsement of religious leaders, who are highly respected figures.

“Guyana is a place where most people live in villages and rural areas, so those who people tend to reach out to are religious leaders,” says Persaud. “In some ways religious leaders become first responders.” Taking into account Guyana’s specific culture with religion, she says, “we have to take into consideration the way mental health symptoms can be interpreted certain ways by religious leaders”.

The Guyana Foundation, a private philanthropic institution tackling Guyana’s social problems, has taken on the problem of suicide at the ground level. Anthony Autar, the managing director, spoke about the multiple ways in which the foundation has approached suicide prevention.

The foundation has reached out to police, family and survivors in rural areas to educate them about suicide and suicidal behaviour. In addition, it conducted training sessions in Georgetown, the country’s capital, for religious leaders, social workers and representatives from NGOs. It also launched an information campaign in local newspapers to challenge misconceptions about mental illness.

The foundation is currently trying to partner with international agencies, such as those in Canada, to route calls from those in need to crisis lines abroad. “Guyana just doesn’t have the capacity,” says Autar, “so we’re doing our best to become creative in seeking solutions”. They’re seeing success. Autar reports that large companies are requesting more information on suicidal behaviour and intervention for their employees. When the foundation offered to connect citizens with mental illness to professionals, they received 50 phone calls in a fortnight. “It shows that people are recognising they can get help and are willing to reach out,” says Autar.

Persaud herself encourages a multi-sectoral approach, saying: “The medical community needs to be actively involved, the church needs to be actively involved, community members need to be actively involved.” In a sentiment echoed by professionals worldwide, Persaud says a comprehensive approach should apply not only to Guyana: “The problem is cross-cultural. We can’t call certain countries advanced just because they use the medical model.”

In the region overall, the issue is gaining attention. The Pan-American Health Organisation (PAHO) has recognised suicide as a major problem, and is focusing special effort on raising awareness and implementing changes in government policy and in public health services. Between 2010 and 2013, PAHO launched region-wide initiatives to address treatment gaps in mental health, and has integrated mental health in its strategic plan for 2014 to 2019.

Efforts have seen some success. According to a report released in 2014, only six countries and territories in the region do not have mental health policies established. (Simultaneously, much work remains to be done, as only eight countries have established targeted, up-to-date mental health laws.)

While top-down interventions are beginning to show results, with psychiatric care moving from psychiatric hospitals to communities and more legislative action on mental health, most Caribbean countries are still struggling to fight the stigma of mental illness at grassroots level. Jamaican blogger Brandon Allwood, one of the few to share his experience of mental illness and suicidal feelings publicly, recounted how the most resistance came from his family and friends. “I understand, now, that my mother and most Jamaicans are of the ‘help-yourself-nuttin-nuh-wrong-wid-yuh’ ilk.”

Allwood concludes: “This is not a call for the government; it is a call for us all to seriously look at our attitudes towards mental illness. How we support our children, siblings, parents, friends and colleagues who are affected by the gamut of mental ailments. It is about us, as a people, being more open to the idea that sometimes we actually do need help.”

Indeed, while psychiatric facilities can keep those in crisis safe, medical intervention alone is not enough. Effective suicide prevention comes from a holistic approach – taking more than the individual or the attempt into account, but also the communities in which they live, the cultural attitudes towards mental illness, and the awareness of the issue of suicide. Globally, there needs to be more open discourse about suicide. For those at risk, there are still significant obstacles, both cultural and logistic, in seeking treatment. Suicide prevention has simple, but proven measures for countries to implement. Putting it on the agenda for 2015 has the potential to save thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of lives.
 

Lucianite

Registered User
Really we got to go there...
Yes, why not .

To solve the problem one needs to understand who and why
Given that there are some cultural and racial divide form my understanding
If there is not different then so be it
But if we stay clear of certain questions we may miss the understanding and solutions
 
Yes, why not .

To solve the problem one needs to understand who and why
Given that there are some cultural and racial divide form my understanding
If there is not different then so be it
But if we stay clear of certain questions we may miss the understanding and solutions
I really think your comment was outta timin too. Yall seem to be obsess with this black/Indian thing.
 

Swollen

Players Play I Coach
Yes, why not .

To solve the problem one needs to understand who and why
Given that there are some cultural and racial divide form my understanding
If there is not different then so be it
But if we stay clear of certain questions we may miss the understanding and solutions
Sounds like garbage to me, but you can do you..
 

Lucianite

Registered User
I really think your comment was outta timin too. Yall seem to be obsess with this black/Indian thing.
Who is " yall" .?
I think YOU are being sensitive on this - who wouldda thunk
I can frame the question differently and ask

Who are. committing suicides ? Or there part of the population more at risk. ?
 

Lucianite

Registered User
Suicide rates among young black boys on the rise - CNN.com

Suicide rates among young black boys on the rise



(CNN)The rates of suicide among African-American children have doubled in the last two decades, surpassing the rates among white children, which dropped over the same time period, according to a new study.

Researchers looked at the suicide rates among children ages 5 to 11 between 1993 and 2012. The rates overall did not change over these years, but the rates among black boys rose from 1.78 to 3.47 per 1 million. In contrast, suicides among white boys declined from 1.96 to 1.31 per million. In just the 5-year period between 2008 and 2012 there were 41 suicide deaths among black boys, and 73 among white boys.

"Suicide rates in the U.S. have historically been higher among white individuals across all age groups," said Jeffrey Bridge, epidemiologist at the Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, who led the research, published Monday in the journal JAMA Pediatrics. "We were very surprised to see higher suicide rates among black children over time," added Bridge, who is also associate professor of pediatrics at The Ohio State University.

In fact, the researchers waited for numbers from 2012 to be available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which was their source of data, to have more confidence in what they were seeing. It did not change their findings.

The suicide rates among girls, although about five times lower than those for boys, followed the same racial trend. The rates among black girls increased from 0.68 to 1.23 per 1 million, although the rise was not statistically significant. Meanwhile the rates among white girls appeared to be stable, at about 0.25 per million.

During the first time period that the researchers studied, 1993 to 1997, suicide rates were similar for black and white boys. Suicide was the 14th and 12th leading cause of death among black and white children, respectively, over those years.

However, rates among black boys had overtaken those for white boys by 2003. Between 2008 and 2012, suicide was the ninth leading cause of death among black children, and the 11th among white children.

The authors of the study did not investigate the reasons for the increase but speculate that suicide rates may be higher for black children for various reasons, including the possibility that they may have more exposure to violence and aggression than white children and be less likely to get help for depression and suicide attempts. In addition, black children tend to go through puberty at a younger age, and research suggests that children are more likely to harm themselves after puberty. It is unclear at this stage if any of these factors, or others, underlie the trend, Bridge said.
 

Socapro

Repect Our Soca Pioneers
What's the suicide rates of blacks vs Indians .?
Traditionally the suicide rate has been higher among East Indians than Africans in Trinidad and I believe that there is a similar trend in Guyana.
A lot of it is down to cultural beliefs and practices.
 

Trini Juan

par wid devil n lock hell
There is a formula to life that solves EVERY issue in life
Lol

N that is viewing race

A bit silly n brooklynlike I would say
 

Socapro

Repect Our Soca Pioneers
why is guyana so badly off?
Mainly because of a corrupt racist PPP government which they just managed to get rid of after over 20 years of being in power and implementing racist policies that victimised its African population forcing many talented Guyanese to migrate to other countries for better opportunities for work and a decent standard of living.

T&T now has a similar problem and will end up just like Guyana or worse if we don't get rid of our current corrupt racist PP government which has been allowing too many racist Indo-Guyanese to resettle in Trinidad mainly for voter padding purposes.

Also it should be noted that as much as half of the East Indian population in T&T have Guyanese roots and Trinidad's East Indian population has now surpassed Guyana's when T&T's East Indian population was only about half of Guyana’s when T&T became Independent in the 1960's.

The only way to save T&T from becoming just like Guyana is for the T&T population to get rid of the corrupt racist PP government come the September 7th General Elections. Trinis who regularly travel from T&T to New York for Labour Day each year need to give it a miss this year as the future of their country is more important.
 
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