The Guyana Foundation, the charity behind the Sunrise Center in Zorg-En-Vlygt, has been integral in dragging the phenomenon into the national conversation in a country where stigma surrounding mental health issues has long hindered efforts to alleviate them. A lack of adequate mainstream facilities and woefully outdated legislation – which still defines patients as “idiots” suffering “derangement” – are just some of the obstacles, says the centre’s managing director Anthony Autar.No single factor can truly explain the high suicide rate, but a panel organised by the University of Guyana found that relationship issues, political upheavals, high crime and poverty were contributing factors. Guyana is also severely lacking when it comes to mental health awareness.
Current legislation outlaws attempted suicide and defines people who try to kill themselves as “idiots” suffering from “derangement”. Although measures are underway to decriminalise it, attempted suicide currently carries a two-year custodial sentence.