LAST Tuesday, we wore yellow and joined hands globally in observance of the World Suicide Prevention Day 2019, in an attempt to stand in solidarity with those persons who have been affected by suicide and to raise awareness on how we each have a role to play in helping one another.
It is well known that suicide is a major health concern replete with a myriad of social ramifications in our small country of Guyana. In fact, our developing country, with less than a million people at its last census, was faced with one of the highest suicide rates in the world, just a few years ago in 2012. Then, it was made known that Guyanaâs suicide rate was 44.2 per cent per 100,000 people.
In the last few years, it has been reported that more persons have been accessing mental health treatment and other forms of assistance through a concerted effort by governmental and non-governmental agencies. So now, the suicide rate has dropped to 24.6 per cent per 100,000 persons. Progress, but more needs to be done.
On the topic of doing more, I think that we need to be more conscious of the things we say and joke about, particularly as it relates to suicide. I find it insensitive and downright distasteful when people make morbid jokes or joke about harming themselves. I will concede that the argument can be made that these may be subliminal cries for help, in which case, it becomes imperative that professional help is sought.
The stark reality is that globally one person still dies every 40 seconds from suicide. This is not something you make light of because it speaks to the amount of pain and hopelessness a person has to go through before coming to this point. And the effects are not limited to that individual experience, but in turn, it affects families, friends and communities.
For the past few years, I have been attending workshops, vigils and other fora that directed focus on raising awareness on Suicide Prevention. These were in response to the need seen for more awareness in the country, particularly on signs of persons who may be feeling that helplessness and in an attempt to reduce the misconceptions and stigma associated with this area of focus. Encompassed in every single one of these fora was the focus on mental health because suicide has been linked to a personâs mental health. Before this push towards raising awareness on mental health and suicide a few years ago, I believe that mental health was not given much importance and persons who suffered from mental illnesses were thought to be “mad people”. I’m glad that way of thinking has been reduced. This year, the World Health Organization (WHO), in its address on the observance of World Suicide Prevention day, highlighted that they would have launched a campaign that helps to spotlight the interconnectedness of Mental health and Suicide.
Regional Advisor on suicide at the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Claudina Cayetano was quoted as saying: “Suicide is a complex issue, with a multitude of intervening factors; therefore there is no single answer to this problem. Today [September 10, 2019], WHO, in collaboration with global partners, the World Federation for Mental Health, the International Association for Suicide Prevention and United for Global Mental Health, will be launching the ‘40 Seconds of Action’ campaign.”
Like I mentioned before, according to the WHO, every 40 seconds someone loses their life to suicide. Cognizant of that, this global campaign seeks to improve awareness of suicide as a global health issue, reduce the stigma associated with suicide and improve knowledge on what can be done to prevent knowledge. The final component and a very important component at that is that the 40 seconds of action seeks to let persons who are struggling know that they are not alone. The culmination of this 40 Seconds of Action campaign will be on World Mental Health Day on 10 October.
It is my wish that as a society we can develop and improve on our value of compassion as individuals just so that we can just be better human beings to each other. You know what we say in GT: Be your brotherâs and sisterâs keeper.
I’m one of those persons with the firm belief that it costs nothing to be a nicer, more compassionate human being. And I cannot emphasise enough that we shouldnât wait for these annual observances once a year to remember to be decent persons to each other. Think about what happens every 40 seconds and think about how we can try to change that for the better.
LINK ORIGINAL: Guyana Chronicle