Suicide is defined as the act or an instance of taking one’s own life voluntarily and intentionally. It is without a doubt, a serious social problem in Guyana. The 2014 World Health Organization report revealed that the suicide rate in Guyana was five times higher than the world average. This data secured Guyana a spot at the top of the list with 44.2 per 100,000 people, the highest suicide rate in the world. Estimations show an average of 1500-2000 attempted suicide rates annually which equates to approximately one suicide attempt every 5 hours, in Guyana. A more recent statistical update by the World Health Organization has revealed that Guyana is no longer at the top of the list for the Highest Suicide Rate in the world, but instead, has dropped to 4th place. According to the data on the WHO’s website, Sri Lanka had the highest suicide rate in the world at an estimated 35.3 per every 100,000 inhabitants; Lithuania was in second place with 32.7 per 100,000; the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) third with 32.0; and Guyana in fourth place with 29.0.However, taking into consideration the population of these countries- Sri Lanka having over 20 million people, the DPRK- over 50 million, Lithuania- 2.9 million while Guyana has less than 1 million, it is clear that the country’s statistics remain as pressing as they were when the World Health Organization released its 2014 report. The global suicide rate in 2015 was 10.7 per 100,000 population, the Americas had a rate of 9.6 and Europe, 14.1. According to the WHO website, the suicide rate in Guyana has been elevating since 2000. At that time, the rate was 22.3 per 100,000 population at 2000, increasing to 24.0 at 2005 and rising to 25.8 in 2010. For 2012, according to the WHO, the rate was recorded at 34.8. Making matters worse, this data only accounts for the recorded suicides. According to Dr Bhiro Harry, head of psychiatry at the Georgetown Public Hospital, Guyana, ‘For each successful suicide in Guyana, there are up to 25 more attempted cases’
Guyana also has a very dark history with self- inflicted death, being the location of the Jonestown Massacre 1978. North West of Guyana was Jonestown, the site of commune of the People’s Temple Religious Organization. On November 18, 1978, Jim Jones, the head of this organization led 918 members to their demise, persuading all members of the commune to commit an act of “revolutionary suicide,” by consuming punch laced with poison. This Massacre was noted as the most ‘deadly single non-natural disaster in U.S. history’ until 2001. Despite the fact that the effects of this massacre does not correlate directly with Guyana’s current suicide rate, it undeniably sheds light into the history of suicides in the country. The University of Guyana organized a Panel with aims of explaining the High Suicide Rate in the Country. They found that the significant factors contributing to this high rate were relationship issues, political conflicts, poverty, crime etc. Statistics reveal Indo-Guyanese account for 80% of suicides, despite making up just 40% of the population in the six-race nation with ages 15-34. 65% of these cases are caused by agricultural pesticides. Suicide is particularly prevalent in Guyana’s rural agricultural communities. Many Indo-Guyanese are farmers so they have easy access to lethal pesticides. Health professionals have brought attention to areas of deep poverty, where alcohol abuse along with the availability of deadly substances has contributed majorly to suicides in particularly rural areas. Also pointed at is the fact that many poor farmers in rural areas have access to specific herbicides and pesticides, making them more prone to suicidal behavior.