Guyana and Suriname Wrestle With High Rates of Suicides

Go Lean Commentary

This Caribbean member-state, Guyana, is Number One …

Not Number One on the list of most productive countries, but Number One on this infamous list: as the country with the highest rate of suicides in the world, according to the latest WHO report. (Suriname is also in the Top 10, at Number 6).

This is a tragedy!

The book Go Lean… Caribbean claims that this region is the best address in the world…physically. And yet this below article asserts that per capita, more people voluntarily “check-out permanently” here than anywhere else in the world. In a previous blog, this commentary presented that this same country Guyana is also Number One in the region with a 89% brain drain among college graduates.

This is not a coincidence, this is a crisis!

Title: Sleepy Guyana Wrestles With High Rate of Suicides
CU Blog - Guyana Wrestles With High Rate of Suicides - Photo 1
Lesbeholden, Guyana – The young man responds all too easily when asked whether he knows anyone who has committed suicide in his village, a sleepy cluster of homes and rum shops surrounded by vast brown fields of rice awaiting harvest.

Less than a year ago, Omadat Ramlackhan recalls, his younger brother swallowed pesticide after a drunken argument with their father and died five days later. “I don’t know what got into him,” the 23-year-old said. “It just happened like that.”

It wasn’t the family’s first brush with suicide. His stepmother, Sharmilla Pooran, volunteers that her brother hanged himself and the man’s son tried to do the same but survived, with rope marks on his neck to remember it. She once contemplated killing herself.

The fact that self-inflected harm is such a presence in the lives of this family is not surprising given that they live in an area that Guyana’s Ministry of Health has designated the “suicide belt,” in a country that the World Health Organization says in a new report has the highest rate of suicide in the world.

Guyana, a largely rural country at the northeastern edge of South America, has a suicide rate four times the global average, ahead of North Korea, South Korea, and Sri Lanka. Neighboring Suriname was the only other country from the Americas in the top 10.

There seem to be a number of reasons that Guyana tops the list, including deep rural poverty, alcohol abuse and easy access to deadly pesticides. It apparently has nothing to do with the mass cult suicide and murder of more than 900 people in 1978 at Jonestown, the event that made the country notorious.

“It’s not that we are a population that has this native propensity for suicide or something like that,” said Supriya Singh-Bodden, founder of the non-governmental Guyana Foundation. “We have been trying to live off the stigma of Jonestown, which had nothing to do with Guyana as such. It was a cult that came into our country and left a very dark mark.”

Just before the WHO published its report last month, the foundation cited rampant alcoholism as a major factor in its own study of the suicide phenomenon, which has been a subject of concern in Guyana for years. In 2010, the government announced it was training priests, teachers and police officers to help identify people at risk of killing themselves in Berbice, the remote farming region along the southeast border with Suriname where 17-year-old Ramdat Ramlackhan committed suicide after quarreling with his father, Vijai.

More recently, the government has sought to restrict access to deadly pesticides, though that is difficult in a country dependent on agriculture. In May, authorities announced a suicide-prevention hotline would be established and Health Minister Bheri Ramsarran said he would deploy additional nurses and social-service workers in response to the WHO report.

Some countries have had success with national strategies in bringing down the number of people who take their own lives, according to the WHO. The number of suicides rose rapidly in Japan in the late 1990s, but started to decrease in 2009 amid government prevention efforts and as discussion of the subject became less taboo.

It has declined in China and India as a result of urbanization and efforts to control the most common means of suicide, said Dr. Alan Berman, a senior adviser to the American Association of Suicidology and a contributor to the WHO report.

“A certain proportion of suicides are rather impulsive and if you can restrict access to the means of suicide, whether it’s by pesticides, or by firearms or by bridge, you can thwart the behavior and give people an opportunity to change their minds,” Berman said.

The WHO estimates there are more than 800,000 suicides around the world per year. Statistics on the subject are unreliable because in some places the practice is stigmatized, or illegal.

The agency found Guyana, which has a population of about 800,000, had an age-adjusted rate of just over 44 per 100,000 people based on 2012 data. For males alone, it was nearly 71 per 100,000. In raw numbers, there are about 200 per year and 500 attempts, according to local health authorities. The U.S. overall rate was 12 per 100,000.

Most occur in Berbice, a flat, sun-baked expanse of farmlands along the river that forms the border with Suriname, where similar social and economic conditions prevail and which was 6th on the WHO list, just ahead of Mozambique.

“Suicides tend to be higher in rural areas than urban areas,” Berman said. “If I’m living in rural Montana, or if I’m living in rural India or in rural Suriname the question then is if I need help for whatever is going on with me how am I going to get it?”

It is a touchy subject in Guyana. The country is divided politically and ethnically between the descendants of people brought from Africa as slaves and the descendants of people brought from India, both Hindus and Muslims, as indentured workers to replace them.

Berbice has many people of Hindus of Indian descent and, as a result, suicide is often portrayed in Guyana as a largely Hindu phenomenon. But Singh-Bodden of the Guyana Foundation said that may be because self-inflicted death among the Hindus of Berbice is more likely to be reported as such. Their study, for example, found little reporting of suicide among native Amerindians who live in the country’s rugged interior.

“I don’t buy into the argument necessarily that it’s an ethnic thing, that Indo Guyanese are more susceptible to suicide,” she said. “There has been a lot of suicide among mixed people as well. I honestly believe it’s the hopelessness.”

Pooran, describing her family’s experiences, said her brother apparently killed himself after struggling with health problems for years and difficult home life. She said she thought about taking her own life while cleaning her house after a day’s work at a local sawmill.

“One day, I picked up the poison and thought about drinking it but I called God’s name and then realized my husband would just get another woman and soon forget me,” she said. “Don’t think I would do that today.”
By Bert Wilkinson in Guyana and Ben Fox reported from Miami.
Associated Press News Wire Service (Retrieved 10-15-2014) –

There is something providential about this crisis as the Go Lean… Caribbean book also asserts that “a crisis is a terrible thing to waste”. The book declares (Page 36) that a man/woman needs three things to be happy:

Deficiency Mitigation
1. Something to do Jobs
2. Someone to love Repatriation of Diaspora
3. Something to hope for Future-focus

The book serves as a roadmap to mitigate these 3 deficiencies within Caribbean life, rural communities and also in The Guianas (Guyana & Suriname).

The subject of suicide is not a light matter and should not be ignored. It addresses one of the most serious aspects of the science of Mental Health. The Go Lean book is not a reference source for science, but it does glean from “social science” concepts in communicating the plan to elevate Caribbean society. The book thusly serves as a roadmap for the introduction and implementation of the technocratic Caribbean Union Trade Federation (CU). The complete prime directives are described as:

  • Optimize the economic engines of the Caribbean to elevate the regional economy and create 2.2 million new job.
  • Establish a security apparatus to protect the resultant economic engines.
  • Improve Caribbean governance to support these engines.

The Go Lean roadmap immediately calls for the establishment of a regional sentinel, a federal Health Department, to monitor, manage and mitigate public health issues in the region. This focus includes mental health in its focus, just as seriously as any other health concern like cancer, trauma, bacterial/viral epidemiology. This direct correlation of physical/mental health issue with the Caribbean (and American) economy has been previously detailed in Go Lean blog/commentaries, as sampled here:

Public Health Economics – The Cost of Cancer Drugs
Antibiotics Misuse Associated With Obesity Risk
Regional Health Sentinel – Stopping Ebola
Recessions and Public Health in the Caribbean Region
Health Concern – Climate Change May Bring More Kidney Stones
New Hope in the Fight Against Alzheimer’s Disease
For Diabetes Mitigation, Google and Novartis to develop “smart” contact  lens
Health-care fraud in America; criminals take $272 billion a year
Painful and rapid spread of new Chikungunya virus in the Caribbean
Cuban Cancer Medication registered in 28 countries

Being first on a list is not uncommon for the Caribbean – Cuba’s famous tobacco-cigar is already declared “Among the Best in the World”. This is the kind of notoriety we want with our global image; not suicides. No one wants to live in a society where these mental health crises remain unmitigated. But the foregoing article relates that suicide rates in Guyana (and Suriname) needs to be arrested.

A lot is at stake.

The Go Lean roadmap immediately calls for the coordination of the region’s healthcare needs. This point is declared early in the Go Lean book, commencing with this opening pronouncement in the Declaration of Interdependence (Page 12), as follows:

ix.  Whereas the realities of healthcare … cannot be ignored and cannot be afforded without some advanced mitigation, the Federation must arrange for health plans to consolidate premiums of both healthy and sickly people across the wider base of the entire Caribbean population. The mitigation should extend further to disease management, wellness, mental health, obesity and smoking cessation programs.

The Go Lean … Caribbean roadmap constitutes a change for the region, a plan to consolidate 30 member-states into a Trade Federation with the tools/techniques to bring immediate change to the region to benefit one and all member-states. This includes the monitoring/tracking/studying the physical and mental health trends. This empowerment would allow for better coordination with member-states, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

The book details Happiness as a community ethos that first must be adopted; this refers to the appropriate attitude/spirit to forge change in the region. Go Lean details this and other ethos; plus the executions of the following strategies, tactics, implementations and advocacies to impact the region’s public [mental] health:

Community Ethos – Deferred Gratification Page 21
Community Ethos – Economics Influence Choices Page 21
Community Ethos – “Crap” Happens Page 23
Community Ethos – Lean Operations Page 24
Community Ethos – Cooperatives Page 24
Community Ethos – Non-Government Organizations Page 25
Community Ethos – Ways to Impact the Future Page 26
Community Ethos – Ways to Impact Turn-Around Page 33
Community Ethos – Ways to Promote Happiness Page 36
Community Ethos – Impact the Greater Good Page 37
Strategy – Vision – Confederate 30 Member-States Page 45
Strategy – Mission – Reform our Health Care Response Page 47
Strategy – Agents of Change – Aging Diaspora Page 57
Tactical – Fostering a Technocracy Page 64
Separation of Powers – Department of Health Page 86
Implementation – Ways to Deliver Page 109
Implementation – Reasons to Repatriate Page 118
Planning – Ways to Make the Caribbean Better Page 131
Planning – Ways to Improve Failed-State Indices Page 134
Planning – Lessons from Indian Reservations – Suicides Page 148
Advocacy – Ways to Grow the Economy Page 151
Advocacy – Ways to Improve Healthcare Page 156
Advocacy – Ways to Better Manage the Social Contract Page 170
Advocacy – Ways to Foster Cooperatives Page 176
Advocacy – Ways to Improve Emergency Management Page 196
Advocacy – Ways to Impact Rural Living Page 235
Advocacy – Ways to Impact/Re-boot The Guianas Page 241

Guyana is a “failing” state, economy-wise. The CU mitigation to re-boot the economy there (& the region) is Step One for minimizing the risk of suicide. The foregoing news article links economic downturns and rural poverty to suicide risks. All in all, there is the need for better stewardship for Caribbean society, the economy, security and governing engines.

Who will provide this better stewardship? Who will take the lead? The book Go Lean…Caribbean provide 370 pages of turn-by-turn directions for how the CU is to provide this role for the region. The people are hereby urged to lean-in to this Go Lean roadmap, to make the Caribbean a better place to live, work and play. 🙂

Download the book Go Lean … Caribbean – now!

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