Washington, D.C. – Guyana has the highest suicide rate in the world, according to a UN report published this week.

The report on suicide prevention – the first of its kind – states that 804,000 people took their own lives worldwide in 2012, equating to one person every forty seconds. Suriname has the sixth highest suicide rate.

Globally, men from higher income countries were three times more likely to commit suicide than women, however this falls to 1.5 times in lower and middle income countries. The most common methods of suicide were pesticide poisoning, hanging and firearms leading to one of the report’s recommendation that limiting access to these means could prevent deaths.

WHO Chief, Margaret Chan, said, “suicides are preventable. This report encourages countries to continue the good work where it is already ongoing and to place suicide prevention high on the agenda, regardless of where a country stands currently in terms of suicide rate or suicide prevention activities.” An integral part of the report is to reduce the rate of suicide worldwide by 10% by 2020.

Gender and race predictors: Data from the Americas indicate that overall the rates of suicide cases were lower than in other regions of the world, that they peaked in young men, remained stable for all other age groups and increased in men over the age of 70.

The Centre for Economic and Social Research (CESRA) found in 2012 that 81% of suicides that occurred in Guyana were from the East Asian community, who comprised 44% of the population. A large proportion of these were from Black Bush Polder in the East Berbice-Corentyne Region where it was suggested that ‘copycat suicides’ contributed to the high number of cases. This has prompted the partnership of the Guyanese government with the Indian Arrival Committee (IAC) who have pledged to heighten awareness of the issue with the aim of “reducing, and hopefully, eliminating incidents of suicides.”

The takeaway: “The most important message is that suicide can be prevented, especially if we identify people at risk and intervene early,” said Dr. Jorge Rodriguez, chief of the Mental Health Unit at the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Regional Office for the Americas of WHO.

World suicide day is on September 10th and will be marked by the IAC in Guyana with a staged walk to heighten awareness. In solidarity, the Ministry of Health in Belize has asked residents to light a candle in the evening near their windows.

Rank Country Suicide rate
1 Guyana 44.2
2 North Korea 38.5
3 South Korea 28.9
4 Sri Lanka 28.8
5 Lithuania 28.2
6 Suriname 27.8
7 Mozambique 27.4
=8 Nepal 24.9
=8 Tanzania 24.9
10 Burundi 23.1

Table showing the ranking of countries according to their suicide rate per 100,000 per 100,000 people

Guyana has highest suicide rate in the world

Deborah Almond

Deborah Almond is AMG's Health Editor and an infectious disease specialist, with experience in sexual and reproductive health and malaria in pregnancy. She holds an MSc from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and a BSc from University College London.

PUBLISHED — September 5, 2014

Category: Health