The Suicide Prevention Bill will be tabled in the National Assembly today.
The Bill is one of several legislative amendments in the health sector that will improve service delivery locally and will aid efforts to curb suicide.
“This is a Bill that we have been working on for some time and that is, it encompasses things we can do to prevent suicide and the Bill also provides for the repeal of a section of our law, that criminalizes persons who attempt suicide. This has been something that people have been advocating for a long time, to remove that section of our law, so this bill once we pass it will help to repeal that section,” Health Minister Dr. Frank Anthony explained.
While Minister Anthony acknowledged that Guyana has a high rate of suicide, he said that although the numbers have been decreasing in recent times, it still remains a problem. To this end, he noted that more work is needed to further decrease the numbers.
The Health Ministry has been working on several strategies to understand the root causes in an effort to prevent incidents of suicide.
Once the legislation is passed, the ministry will roll out a strategic plan that will address suicide and how it can be prevented.
Currently, the ministry is working with international partners. and non-governmental organization’s such as Columbia University in trying to understand the causes, and effects of suicide on the family of victims.
“We are very confident that is going to help us to find some of those drivers and once we know that then we would be able to act on those drivers to prevent suicide,” Dr. Anthony said.
The ministry has also been training local primary healthcare workers to detect depression in persons who access services, so there can be early intervention to help vulnerable persons.
The Health Minister added, “If people present themselves to the health centre or to the hospital then our doctors must be capable of identifying, detecting depression and by doing that early you can effect treatment to prevent suicide from happening.”
“We need to put an effective programme in place, so that we can detect depression, treat depression and prevent suicide, and we need more partnerships, more people in the community that can act as a safety net for persons, who might be vulnerable to depression and things like that. So, if we have stronger community relations, stronger community leadership, then it can help us to identify these persons who are vulnerable and work with us to give them the kind of support they would need during this period of vulnerability,” the health minister added.
While suicide affects persons in all parts of Guyana, Regions Two (Pomeroon-Supenaam), Region Four (Demerara-Mahaica) and Region Six (East Berbice-Corentyne) were highlighted as areas most affected.
A 2017 report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) pointed out that between 2010–2012, there were 667 reported suicide attempts, resulting in an average of 200 deaths per year in Guyana.