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It’s not the notoriety any country wants, but between Guyana’s dense rainforest and luscious coast lies a sad truth. The country has the highest suicide rate in the world. According to the World Health Organization, 44.2 out of every 100,000 Guyanese take their own lives. That is more than double the global average of 16 in 100,000 people.
So why are so many living without hope? No single factor can truly explain the high suicide rate, but a panel organised by the University of Guyana found that relationship issues, political upheavals, high crime and poverty were contributing factors. Guyana is also severely lacking when it comes to mental health awareness. Current legislation outlaws attempted suicide and defines people who try to kill themselves as “idiots” suffering from “derangement”. Although measures are underway to decriminalise it, attempted suicide currently carries a two-year custodial sentence.
Guyana has a huge deficit to overcome when it comes to tackling the problem: mainly the lack of mainstream facilities and health experts. The country’s own public health minister claims the existing national psychiatric hospital is less than adequate, calling the facility unfit “for human consumption”. On Tuesday, we’ll discuss the challenges Guyana must overcome to tackle the problem and the action the country’s president says is needed.
In this episode of The Stream, we speak with:
Savitri Persaud @savitripersaud
Ph.D candidate, York University Graduate Program of Social and Political Thought
Supriya Singh @GYFoundation
Founder Guyana Foundation
Derwayne Wills @4aBetterGuyana
Caitlin Vieira @GuyanaAgency
Psychologist specialising in addiction and suicidal behavior, Georgetown Public Hospital
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