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. Neighbouring 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.
I think there are some other factors that I blogged about before like the fact that violence against women is widely accepted.