Media aids in spiralling, record high suicide rates

The fifth installment of ‘Lunch Talk’ was held on Thursday, January 14 at the APC Office. Lunch Talk is facilitated by the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) in partnership with Advancing Partners and Communities (APC). This month's Lunch Talk focused on Mental Health Challenges affecting LGBT Guyanese. 

The panel included: Lisa Punch, President of the Prevention of Teenage Suicide (POTS) Organisation and Miss Guyana World; Caitlin Vieira, Psychologist and Addiction Specialist, Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation and Abdel Fudadin, Mental Health Researcher, CUSO International. Moderator: John Quelch, Project Coordinator, SASOD.

Georgetown Public Hospital Psychologist and Addiction Specialist Caitlin Vieira, who also works at the national Suicide Hotline is and attached to the Mental Health Unit of the Ministry of Public Health, expressed her concerns at how the media was actively portraying suicide in Guyana. She said the media exposes way too much than they need to: age, means, identity, suspected reasons and other factors that may influence what is known as ‘copycat suicides’ and this phenomenon is currently happening right now.

This was discussed during a ‘Lunch Talk’ engagement Thursday last on Mental Health Challenges affecting LGBT Guyanese with civil society stakeholders as part of SASOD and USAID’s Advancing Partners and Communities (APC) Project monthly discussion series.

Participants at the Lunch Talk

When someone commits suicide, others follow, and in Guyana’s case on a rapid spike; according to Vieira sometimes people do not even know how to commit the act but the media would show pictures or clips of people hanging, razor cuts on their wrists and go into detail of the substances and amounts used, which exposes more than is needed to people who are already suicidal.

Abdel Fudadin, a Mental Health Researcher at Cuso International shared Vieira’s views noting that the media broadcasts identities and reasons which show little consideration for the families and communities that are then put into the spotlight during the grieving process and are often stigmatised and blamed by the public for not doing enough or being the cause. These are people, he said, that are victims of the aftermath of a close one taking their own lives and when they suffer terribly the media does more harm than good just for a story. “The media should take the responsibility and take the national effort to curb the rate of suicide by being sensitive about their publications,” Fudadin expressed.

 There is a National Suicide Hotline operation for people who are thinking of committing the act, for people who are depressed, anyone in grief, or who has lost someone to suicide, or for anyone who would like to help someone they know in need of it. Toll free numbers are 2233001, 2230009. Mobile: 6234444 (GTT) and 6007896 (Digicel). Text messaging and “call me” features are also available as alternative options for persons who need support.