With a suicide rate higher than North Korea, why is Guyana the world leader in self-inflicted death?

Why is Guyana the global leader in suicides?

So why do people in my home country of Guyana kill themselves so often.

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.

Happy Anniversary

Bluetune Solo Bluetooth SpeakerI was married 17 years ago today to Jordon.  Another year together and we will be adults.

To celebrate today, we got up early and headed out to Gordie Howe Bowl for the Charity Bowl.  The Bedford Road Redhawks played the Mount Royal Mustangs for the third and final time this season and beat them 26-0.  Mark found out five minutes before the game he would be playing defensive halfback and then right as he went out on the field, he lined up at cornerback.  So this year he has started at linebacker while playing defensive line, halfback, and finally cornerback.  Jack of all trades. 

We watched the game with Jerry and then were joined by Darren and Sheryl Friesen whose son is the QB for the Evan Hardy Souls.  I imagine if it wasn’t for the transit strike and the Redhawks playing Mount Royal three times, they would may have played against each other.

For my anniversary Jordon gave me a new Saskatchewan Roughriders jersey, a dark green Starbucks mug, and some loose leaf tea.  I got him a Bluetooth speaker.   Tonight we will enjoy supper out on the town.

This has easily been the worst year of our marriage and to be honest, a Bluetooth speaker doesn’t seem to be enough.  Jordon puts up with a lot from me, the depression and it’s impact on us is really tough.  I’m glad he is there for me though.  Hopefully I get through this and next year is a lot better.

Replaced by my weblog

When I left Brandon, Manitoba to attend college in Saskatoon, my parents would call twice a week.  Every single Wednesday and Sunday night and they would talk for a couple of hours about the Brandon weather, the Brandon weather, work, family, church, and the Brandon weather.  The calls were late at night and no matter what happened, they made those calls.

When I became married to Jordon, they called and talked to me every single Wednesday and Sunday night and talked about the Brandon weather, the Brandon weather, work, family, church, and the Brandon weather.  The calls eventually became an issue because of my working late (until 10:30 at Safeway) and Jordon having morning classes and later working but still they would call twice a week, every single week.  Good grief, even when I called them to tell them that Jordon’s mother was about to die that week, they interrupted me to talk about the weather in Brandon.

It was 16 years ago last month that I told them that I had been molested and sexually assaulted growing up.  They never called me again.  Communication just stopped.  It went from twice or three times a week to nothing.  

At the time they said that they were angry at me for wrecking their perception of my childhood and for the reputation of the family but it’s weird we never talked after that.  When I would call, it was a mess.  To hide me never coming around, my mother suggested to others that there was problems in my marriage, perhaps even violence (that was fun when it got back to me from women in her church).  Then after that they would insist that things couldn’t be that bad because I gave my mom a touching Mother’s Day card in grade 2.  You know a totally normal reaction to someone being molested and sexually assaulted.  They never wanted to know how I was doing, only that they were upset over my tone of voice when addressing their lies to and about me (the world was big for them but had been made smaller for us by email and people asking me directly if some of these lies were true).

During those years it was clear that my mom and dad didn’t want me around.  There was a family reunion in Brandon that my uncles told me about months in advance.  I wasn’t told about or invited to until the week before.  I wasn’t told about my grandfather’s death until a day or two before the funeral or even told that he was sick.  Apparently being molested disqualified me from being around.

Looking back at it, the one thing that I did to make things worse was publish a weblog.  Now a weblog can make things worse in a lot of ways (ask Healther Armstrong) but over time it became oddly apparent that it was replacing me.  Wendy Hardinge was replaced by WendyCooper.org for my parents.   

Growing up, I was the happy go-lucky child.  Some of that was my personality, other parts of it was that is how I survived.  I just did everything that I could to make things better for people.  I would never want to be a drag on the family.  It was both survival and co-dependency but it was the only thing I knew.

So when early incarnations of my blog offered up recipes, anecdotes, and photos, it was a lot more palatable then actually dealing with the Wendy was struggling with depression and didn’t have a lot of fun things to share. Not only that but I kept hearing from people in Brandon that I knew, “Oh your mother told me about that recipe I had shared” or “I heard about your new dog from your mom.”  It was enough information for her to create the illusion that we had a relationship.  Combine that with times they passed through Saskatoon without talking to me, the impression was given that things were fine.  It also fed into the idea that Jordon was the problem.

From the start my parents didn’t really want a restored relationship with me.  That would mean dealing with the lies and having to accept what they did and did not do.  They lack the self awareness and the courage to deal with it.

What they wanted communication and while my blog didn’t allow them to talk about the weather and Brandon, it did allow them to see what I was up to and reinforce their need to believe that being sexually assaulted and molested for years didn’t have an impact on me and that I was okay.  It didn’t matter what I told them in my attempts to fix things, my blog said that I was okay.

When they got on Twitter, it was even more the same.  If I am witty on Twitter, things must be good.  When I wasn’t warm and fuzzy on Twitter, my mother would unfollow me.  My father never bothered to follow me.  Then again he is the same man who came out and told me that he didn’t want to be my father and didn’t want to be Mark’s grandfather.  

It’s a weird feeling being replaced by your website and photos on Flickr.  A lot of parents I know read their children’s writing, I don’t know of anyone that uses that as an alternative reality to their child’s life.  No one would read some recipes and see some photos and go, “her depression can’t be that bad” but mine seem to have.  Of course being in that format, I am there when it is convenient, something to pass the time on a slow weekend afternoon rather than needing any energy or effort.

I think it also helps the guilt.  It takes a certain type of person to cut off their daughter when she tells you that she was molested because of the fear of damage it would do to your reputation, then lie about it to others, lie about things to that person, and then cut them and their grandchildren off from the family.  Whatever you have to do I guess.  I just seems such a weird thing to do.  Then again. nothing has ever been that normal about my relationship with them.

Nuit Blanche

Eden's Sprout

Mark watching Eden's Sprout

Photographers at work

Eden's Sprout being created

Creators got to create

The Joy of Painting

Saskatoon Library

They took my spot

Public art

A tuba


Painter doing this thing

People talking during Nuit Blanche

Installation at Nuit Blanche

People at Nuit BlancheJenga at Nuit Blanche

Nuit Blanche 2014

So here are my favourite photos from Nuit Blanche.  I borrowed an Olympus 45mm f1.8 lens which contributed greatly to how these photos turned out but more than that, it was the energy in the air during a fantastic event.

Jordon and I brought Mark and Oliver down to it without knowing how they would enjoy it.  Oliver had to be pried away from the Eden’s Sprout exhibit while Mark had a great time exploring 20th Street. It was a fantastic night to be out on 20th Street with 5,000 of my closest friends (even if some of the city councillors we ran into were a tad defensive).

I only posted my favourites here but there are some more that can be found on Flickr.