High Suicide Rate among Young Indo-Guyanese: Political Pessimism? – By Rosaliene Bacchus

Three Worlds One Vision

Suicide by Poison - Guyana

Poison preferred method of suicide in Guyana
Photo Credit: Guyana Chronicle

In his article, “Guyana’s breakdown is connected to our high suicide rate,” published in Kaieteur News on February 6, 2016, Freddie Kissoon posits that an underlying cause of Guyana’s alarming suicide rate is “the political pessimism that has dogged this country since Independence.” Bear in mind that the controversial columnist, a former social science university lecturer, has been highly critical of the former ruling East Indian left-wing political party (1992-2015).

A small developing Caribbean nation with a declining population of less than 750,000 people (Census 2012), Guyana topped the chart of the World Health Organization’s 2014 report on suicide worldwide, based on data for the year 2012. With a suicide rate of 44.2 per 100,000 persons, Guyana beat South Korea (28.9) and Sri Lanka (28.8). At the time, Guyana’s health authority claimed a much lower rate…

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  • De castro  On 02/08/2016 at 4:22 am

    Interesting read…. disappointing
    facts. Question ?
    Where are the ‘social’ workers in
    all this. Talking the talk is what most
    of the ‘political’ cl-asses do.
    One suicide is one too many.
    Every village every town every city
    must have at least one government
    appointed agent or agency to address
    the issue. Now that local elections
    are being held it will be interesting to
    see how the newly elected representatives will address this
    very serious problem.
    Hopefully central government will
    foot the bill. It’s so critical that this
    position is reversed.
    One life is enough ….one lost to
    suicide unacceptable/unforgivable.

    Let’s see which local candidates
    promises to address this issue
    How and more importantly when ?
    Am optimistic🇬🇾

  • Albert  On 02/08/2016 at 10:35 am

    I lived on the Corentyne for a while and witness some of these cases. Some of the stories are really sad. It is to a great deal a cultural problem.

    Malathion? or “Lovers tonic” is too easy to get. Like guns there should be more controls on purchase and storage.
    Ther should be more effort to inform the young (especially young Indian women) on outlet to solve their social problems.

    • De castro  On 02/08/2016 at 2:05 pm

      For starters free birth control pill
      condoms and sex education in
      An informed public is an educated public. And yes better control on sale
      of pesticides/drugs etc.
      Read recent article of mother who
      enslaved/incarcerated her daughter
      for falling in love ….sad.

  • Gigi  On 02/08/2016 at 2:54 pm

    Guyana’s high suicide rate among Indo-Guyanese can also be taken in context with the high suicide rate of Native Americans in the US where oppression and deprivation of self-determination have been used to reduce the population. Asians are naturally ambitious, highly motivated, success driven and entrepreneurial. Take these away and you take away their purpose in life, their identity. What is shameful is that Indo-Guyanese have significantly contributed to the demise of their own people by taking advantage of their weakened state.

    An interesting article highlighting the use of alcohol to control Native Americans and the similarities to be found in the Indo-Guyana community.

    “For Dunbar-Ortiz, alcohol abuse is not about addiction. She categorizes alcohol as a “colonial weapon” that has been “used all over the world.” At least one of the framers of the US Constitution agreed with Dunbar-Oritz’s views on the strategic role of alcohol. In his renowned autobiography, Benjamin Franklin suggested: “If it be the design of Providence to extirpate these savages in order to make room for cultivators of the earth, it seems not improbable that rum might be the appointed means. It has already annihilated all the tribes who formerly inhabited the sea-coast.” Dunbar-Ortiz relates alcohol abuse to the trauma of land expropriation, noting that land remains Native peoples “rootedness, their survival … the one strand that allows them to continue as peoples.””


    • De castro  On 02/08/2016 at 4:59 pm

      Don’t often compliment you on some of your more outrageous comments …but think you nailed
      it……but please a lot to read….after 200 words I loose interest……..
      Yes alcohol was one of many weapons of mass control/destruction of native american Indians
      nomadic lifestyle.
      However they were nomads who not unlike amazonian Indians did not “own” land or traded
      in land. It was indeed the newcomers who introduced the idea of ‘titles’ ‘land ownership’ as
      practicd by their European ancestors. Today HRH QE2 owns a lot UK lands but most are
      available for ‘public’ to enjoy….as parks and gardens…..not for sale.
      Hey Guyana’s 83.000M2 should be more “fairly”distributed….. Land Reformation a necessary
      evil……free land to all citizens but if you do not use it for purpose allocated at time
      you loose it.
      In my village GG ECD most villagers were allocated a piece of land in backdam for growing their
      fruit and vegetable for their families…..any excess was sold in the local village market.
      My grandfather had a piece and we travelled by boat via canal… either paddled or pulled by his donkey
      to help with picking in mango season. It was fun and something we looked forward to in school
      holidays.Not sure if this continues today.It was hard work keeping the “bush”growth under control.
      The lands were well irrigated by the canals but as it was sea level or below it suffered from occasional
      flooding……don’t think there were any suicide in the village but a few alcoholics.
      India did have a problem with suicide after failed crops but don’t think it is so widespread today.
      Most developing countries farmers are incentivised for producing more and improved quality.

      Now that’s more than 200 words and am sorry if I strayed a bit from subject of discussion.
      Fishing and farming is a Guyanese tradition but even today it should be encouraged.
      Life could be simple ..politicians and bankers complicate it !
      Ways I see it

  • Albert  On 02/08/2016 at 8:35 pm

    Kamtan…..”For starters free birth control pill condoms and sex education in schools”
    Me think you live out of Guyana too long. Most Guyanese parents will not go for this.
    In the 60’s we had to rush a young woman to Port Mourant hospital after she had taken a dose of malathion. They flush out her stomach several times with water and she live. The doctor stood by helpless and the experience nurses were the heroes.
    The story was she fell in love and elope with a street smart unemployed loafer. He probably fooled her about marriage but changed his mind after he got what he wanted. Everyone in the village knew and in that community she would be shamefully scarred for life when she return. Even worst she had two younger sister at home…..marriage prospects? She decided on lovers tonic as a way out.

    Perhaps you are right. Guyana may have changed since and have become more “Americanized” God help them.

    • De castro  On 02/09/2016 at 2:45 am

      Thanks for that reminder of what ‘village’ life was like (and maybe still is in 2016.)
      The stigmata of virtue in love and marriage lives on ……
      In today’s world the stigmata of pregnancy out of wedlock still remains…rightly so.
      In UK many young girls willfully got pregnant to get priority on the housing ladder of
      “social housing” but sex education in schools and discouragement by the authorities
      has reduced the “ambition” or “lack of ambition” in young girls.
      It will never stop but the trend/statistics are steadily downwards.
      Villages in UK are very selective and close communities but nationally most
      villagers have access to higher education in towns and cities so few if any
      remain in villages. With roads rail and cars access some are choosing to return
      to village life but commute to jobs in towns cities. All four of my children have
      followed careers and now work from home …. a 21st century idea. Less stressful
      more productive. Robots (working class) are now factory workers.
      My experiences of this new generation of thinking is in favour.
      In a word progress…but do have some reservations.
      The 9 to 5 office/factory jobs may become extinct….doubt it !
      21st century lifestyle is changing our world…..hopefully for a better one.
      Forever the optimist.

  • Thinker  On 02/09/2016 at 5:51 am

    It is clear that there is no easy explanation for Guyana’s suicide rate. Kamptan’s comments might have been valid 50 years ago. Gigi’s comments might have been useful if she were describing the Indigenous community with a high suicide rate in Guyana but that is not the case. Men are more likely to commit suicide in Guyana and it’s not indebted farmers. So more precise research by Guyanese has to be done. It is not good enough to just state that it is all a cultural issue. India does not have the Guyanese suicide rate.

    • De castro  On 02/09/2016 at 6:24 am

      Thinker partly agree……
      One suicide is one too many….regardless on where it occurs.
      Guyana is unfortunately top of list…with ‘male’ suicide also tops.
      Whatever initiative is taken am sure these two criteria will form solution/s.
      Incidentally 50 years ago Guyana was not at top in world so what has changed.
      The political cl-asses are certainly responsible……they must find the answers.
      Think drug and guns may be a major contributory factor.
      Therefore these must be top of the political agenda as Guyana moves forward.
      Corruption another.
      However suicide in women will require a different solution hence my suggestions
      of birth control sex education in schools……

      Let’s see what happens next….
      Remain optimistic

  • demerwater  On 02/09/2016 at 7:51 am

    Okay, I typed the word suicide in the search bar and it yielded ten commentaries, going back to 2012.
    My opinion is that there is an absence of any professional treatment of the subject.
    There has to be an explanation for my own and very amateurish experiences / observations which I will list here in some sort of chronological order.
    My father told me about a couple who jumped off Ft. Groyne and whose bodies, in tight embrace were washed up on the foreshore. I detected some trace of romanticism coming through his staid personality as he related the incident.
    Then there was the suicide of the 19 yr. old female school teacher who rode her bicycle off the Rosignol stelling. The Guyana Graphic newspaper had recently been reduced to tabloid size and her photograph almost took over the whole front page. It was in high demand by teen aged females in Albuoystown. Evidently she had formed a romantic relationship of which her father disapproved. He openly whipped her which triggered her precipitate action.
    A very close female relation of mine attempted to take her life out of fear of her father’s wrath, now that her secret romantic attachment was uncovered. Helicopter parenting, and filial piety – features of East Indian family life – play some and significant part.
    One of my uncles committed suicide because he was thoroughly shamed by the whole extended family; over an incident that was neither ventilated nor proven. The family was prominent in a small rural village. Saving face and avoiding disgrace – two other features of East Indian family and community life.
    Then there was my good friend and co-worker who hanged himself – because his wife left him. The details were never made clear and I was out of the country at the time. This I do know. He had great self esteem; considerable talent and his foremost motivation was; not to fail – ever. His “failed” marriage would deeply affect him.
    In the mean time there were two suicide by self-immolation. One was a medical professional in Guyana; the other a Guyanese writer in England.
    Then there was my own teen aged daughter, in hospital recovering from an appendectomy, all agog about this other teenager, admitted last night, who drank poison. I was concerned enough to enquire at the nurses’ station what poison was involved. Paraquat! No antidote! I tried gallantly to prepare my daughter for the eventuality. My credibility teetered precariously as the victim appeared to recover. Four days later she died … and my daughter was inconsolable.
    So there you have it. I really, really wish that some person learned in these matters, can make some sense of all this.
    Because I cannot.

  • Albert  On 02/09/2016 at 1:04 pm

    Looking back its also puzzling to me. The sample of my experience largely correlates with what you have written. During the period 62-65 my responsibility was to investigate cases of what was called “unnatural deaths” which obviously included suicides, in the area between Bush Lot to Portuguese Quarters, Port Mourant in Berbice. The objective as l recall, was to ascertain there was no criminal intent attach to the death by other parties (suicide was a crime). It often required getting a coroners order and witnessing post mortems, talking to the families, witnesses and involved parties.

    In that time sample, subject to memory, all the suicides were Indo-Guyanese. Difficult to attach a standard reason or motive to the men, just as you wrote. There might be different motives: pride, shame, rejection by a female, loss of money, poor health, but it might be done typically by hanging or poisoning.
    In the case of the women they were usually young, always involved some love relationship, parental disapproval of the girls lover……….more easy to attach a general motive.

    May add that in later years I witness the same patterns in West Coast Berbice: (Ithaca to I think #5) except on a smaller scale.

    • De castro  On 02/09/2016 at 3:09 pm

      To conclude….is it a weakness or s strength in the human physce.
      We all know of the jehadist belief that “martyrdom” is ticket to heaven with 100 virgins.
      Think the religious aspect of suicide should be mentioned here.
      Question ..is belief a strength or weakness ?

      Think one must be near “insane” to go ahead with it. Some must also think/hope that it is not the
      final solution. ….Jones town comes to mind…..Guyanese must learn from the mistakes of past.

      Que Sera sera

      • Thinker  On 02/10/2016 at 5:06 am

        Jonestown was mass murder not suicide. The religious aspect of suicide is that it is generally condemned. Since Islam expanded mostly by military action except in the Far East, it is understandable that a soldier sacrificing himself for the general benefit of all is honoured. Throwing in 70 virgins (and boys if so desired) is added motivation. That Pakistani Intelligence is now known to be behind the Mumbai attacks comes as no surprise.

  • De castro  On 02/10/2016 at 5:35 am

    In reference to Jones town…most of the lunatic leader jack Jones followers agreed to taking the cool aid….
    those who refused were threatened at gun point …some shot.

    A tragic reminder/incident of how religion can be used to indoctrinate destroy rational thinking.

    Thought jones town was a religious cult led by the fanatic Jack Jones ?

    • De castro  On 02/10/2016 at 5:59 am

      Also on “sacrificing your life in the military for the benefit of others is a bit far fetched”
      If you join the military the “kill or be killed” principle of war is your motivation…
      In my military career was accommodated as a “conscienceous objector” in RAF requesting
      no postings to war zones. Today most who join the military must accept the “kill or be killed”
      principle of war as part of their contract.
      The line dividing the killing in self defence against killing in the name is Allah is clear.
      One aggressive/offensive other defensive.
      Ways I see wars….a necessary evil “unacceptable” in 2016 or beyond.

      • Thinker  On 02/10/2016 at 6:16 am

        The concept of Jihad cannot be really compared with self-preservation in regular armies. No regular enlisted soldier believes he will be taken immediately to heaven smelling of roses or whatever. Horny young men dream of full breasted dark eyed women. The motivation is simply not the same. And of course it is aggressive. Who is questioning that?

    • Thinker  On 02/10/2016 at 6:07 am

      It is simply not true that most of Jim Jones 900 followers took the cool aid willingly.

  • demerwater  On 02/10/2016 at 7:51 am

    I believe that Jonestown was mass suicide. Here is why.
    Imagine that you are poor; very poor! Poor to the extent that, in the dead of a bitter winter, you are huddled over a grating, somewhere in Michigan State, to take advantage of the warm updraft. I come along and offer to take you to a land where it is tee-shirts and shorts for 365 days a year (and 366 in a leap year). A land where you can eat a fruit, spit the seed on the ground; and in 3 weeks, a seedling fruit tree will sprout and grow. In return, I want all your worldly possessions and future income. In that moment of weakness / need, you agree. I get you on an aircraft and take you (and others) to a distant land, put you all on another aircraft and take you into a Mobile Home Park, carved into a tropical forest. For a while, all is as it should be.
    Soon it all unravels. You do not know where you are; have not the faintest idea how to get out of there; and even if you did, you have nothing. Worse – nothing to look forward to.
    It is not far fetched. Jim Jones conned the clergy of Main Street Catholic Church into addressing the congregation. The address degenerated into some kind of “Faith Healing” session …. and the clergy had to repudiate the whole affair next day.
    I have often tried to put myself vicariously in that situation; and touched the edge of what true despair must be like. I have tried to do the same thing with being an “indentured coolie” … and panicked. I am not going anywhere near to imagining myself a slave. I might self-destruct!
    But I thought that in those circumstances I would self-destruct. I have no firm reason to support that all suicides arise out of despair. But I believe it. The elusive component is why is it that some people feel this despair because their one real true love has spurned them. Do they not know of ‘puppy love’? ‘infatuation’? and things like that? Is Faith so absent from people’s lives?
    I hold firmly that every good thing that I know and believe, I learnt from home, church and school.
    Was I brought up in a different Guyana?

    • De castro  On 02/10/2016 at 10:08 am

      Nice one….everything that I know and believe came later in my life as I started to question the stories I
      was ‘forced fed’ in school church
      not so much home…left home at 17 to
      follow a military career in RAF uk.
      Had I remained in Guyana my whole
      outlook to life would be different.

      To answer the question ….yes Guyana is different today as it was yesterday as it will be tomorrow….our world is
      changing will change must change.
      Hopefully for a better one.
      Forever the optimist !

  • De castro  On 02/10/2016 at 9:39 am

    Less than half or more…we may never know ? Certainly more questions than
    answers here.

  • Albert  On 02/10/2016 at 10:33 am

    “I believe that Jonestown was mass suicide. Here is why”

    Evidence from those who escape suggest some were force to drink..What about the babies and Native Indians……….there was a few among the dead.

  • demerwater  On 02/11/2016 at 9:47 am

    Here is a site that lists the victims. Make of it what you may.

  • demerwater  On 02/13/2016 at 6:32 am

    Ah, yes! Tim Carter – the eye witness to the tragedy in which his wife and child died. I come from a long line of men who taught me to “pick peas out of T*H*I*S* anagram”. ‘Cowardly’ and ‘credible’ are not adjectives I would use to describe the same person. It is precisely in these circumstances that I have to draw on my own knowledge and experience to come to my own conclusions – or judgment – as you wish.

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