News Americas, BRONX, NY, Mon. Dec. 8, 2014: The research does not seem to exist for Guyana, or if it does, is not easily accessible; but suicide does take a tremendous toll beyond the lives lost.
Such costs are usually referred to as direct costs – costs associated with suicide and its aftermath. There are also the indirect costs – costs associated with productivity or earnings loss or projected earnings losses, and intangible human costs – pain, grief, suffering, lost quality of life, lost opportunities and values associated with what life would have offered.
Usually also there is a total financial cost computed by adding direct and indirect costs. For example in the US, these costs have been estimated to be $1,061,170 per suicide. For Guyana it could well be hundreds of thousands, even millions, per suicide.
A survivor of suicide is a family member or friend of a person who died by suicide. Surviving the loss of loved one to suicide is a risk factor for suicide. (Brent, 2010; Brent et. al., 2006).
Additionally, surviving family members and close friends are deeply impacted by each suicide, and experience a range of complex grief reactions including, guilt, anger, abandonment, denial, helplessness, and shock (Jordon, 2001; AAS, 2008).
And while no exact figure exists, it is estimated that a median of between 6 and 32 survivors exist for each suicide, depending on the definition used (Berman, 2011). In Guyana it would be conservative to estimate that approximately 50 percent or more of the population knew someone who died of suicide in any given year and can be considered survivors.
Official figures indicate that over 1,000 victims have taken their own lives since 2011. At this rate, the nation may lose 1,000 or more lives to suicide every three year.
And indicators do not provide any comfort in this respect. The recent poll conducted by INEWSGUYANA clearly explained the feelings of isolation, neglect and depression being experienced by youths between the ages of 15-24. How long before many give in to the feelings of total despair and hopelessness that will lead to suicide as an escape from their present living conditions? Already almost all of the suicides from this age group seem to be the result of lack of coping skills.
This loss to suicide becomes more massive when one looks at the impact of migration. In 2011, Guyana’s emigration rate was tagged at 33.5 percent or one out of every three Guyanese, with an estimated two out of every three skilled Guyanese leaving. In 2013, the birth rate was 16.31 births per thousand while the death rate was 7.18 per thousand which means that the overall increase to the population should have been 9 per thousand or an increase of 7,200 per year.
In effect, in spite of net birth rate that indicates an annual increase in the population, migration has ensured that the total population has remained almost constant for the last three decades or more. Furthermore, this migration has also fueled the brain drain, which has robbed the nation of human resources much needed for development. Now with suicide decimating the ranks of the younger population the replacement human resources, necessary for the development, would be hard pressed to materialize. The effect on development and the economy could be debilitating.
This also brings a number of other questions into play: Who will replenish the national insurance? Who will be the support for families and head the households? Who will be the doctors, nurses, teachers, policeperson or farmers?
So everyone has something to lose and that is truly the tragedy of this plague, for it does not discriminate. Suicide is Everybody’s Business and it is rather difficult to understand why so many continue to sleep, as their neighbors die deaths that are eminently avoidable.
Are we not your brothers and sisters keepers? Have we lost the outlook whereby the village did indeed raise the child and one villager’s challenges became shared challenges?
Most importantly, there is also an overriding question: why has the situation relating to suicide, domestic violence and related issues has been allowed to reach such massive proportions?
The records reveal that a great deal of aid, grants and budgetary allocations have been provided over the years for redressive work in suicide, abuse and other social ills.
Also significant training has taken place and many programs and policies were either launched or planned. So while not pointing fingers or apportioning blame, The Caribbean Voice asks: “Why have all these resource not made any critical impact?
EDITOR’S NOTE: Annan Boodram is founder of The Caribbean Voice and is ardently putting the spotlight on suicide in Guyana. For more join the conversation at https://www.facebook.com/groups/suicideepidemic/ or check out the group’s YouTube page.