Suicide prevention bill tabled – Stabroek News

Health Minister Dr Frank Anthony tabled the Suicide Prevention Bill in the National Assembly on Thursday which, when passed, will decriminalize attempted suicide and make survivor counseling compulsory.

Guyana, for many years, has topped the charts for suicides per capita, and according to the government, the bill aims to provide measures to address this exceptionally high number of suicides and attempts.

The seven-part bill provides for the creation of a suicide prevention commission. It will repeal sections 95 and 96 of the Criminal Law (Offences) Act which deals with incitement or encouragement to commit suicide and attempted suicide and section 202 of the Summary Jurisdiction Act ( offences) which also deals with suicide attempts.

Under Guyanese law, attempted suicide is punishable by up to two years in prison if convicted.

Part II of the Bill states that the Commission is composed of the Chief Medical Officer, the Chief Psychiatrist, the Director of the Mental Health Unit of the Ministry of Health, the Director of the Protection and Care Agency Childhood and the Director of Education as ex-officio members. The Minister of Health is empowered to appoint a person to chair the commission, a doctor, a psychiatrist, a nurse appointed by the Association of Nurses, a lawyer appointed by the Bar Association, two social workers proposed by the Association social worker workers, a representative from the Guyana Police Force, a representative from the Ministry of Social Services and Social Security, a representative from civil society appointed by the Private Sector Commission, a representative from the National Council of Toshaos and a representative from each of the three major religions.

The Commission will be responsible for preparing a national suicide prevention plan and for planning, designing and implementing public programs to reduce suicides and attempted suicides. He will also be responsible for the establishment of suicide prevention centers throughout Guyana and suicide prevention training for human resources staff.

While the bill imposes a mandate on the Commission to provide support including counseling to suicide survivors and their families, it also creates an obligation for people who have attempted suicide and their families to seek counselling.

According to the explanatory memorandum to Anthony’s bill, section 20 is intended to ensure that no death by suicide or attempted suicide is reported until the coroner approves the report. Reporting in the context of the bill relates to media coverage, including broadcast, print, social media and blogging, among others.

The bill also seeks to provide for the content of the report when a person has died by suicide or is suspected of committing suicide. It prohibits the report from including the method of suicide, the identity of the deceased and family members unless “the public interest in doing so clearly outweighs the risk of causing further suicides; clear and informed written consent was provided to the person publishing the report by an adult family member, or if there is no such family member, an adult relative or close adult friend of the deceased; and no competent authority has requested that the report be withheld or delayed to avoid the risk of inducing further suicides; any information or language that is sensationalized, glamorous or trivializing suicide or that inappropriately stigmatizes suicide or those involved in suicides; any unconfirmed information or rumours; and explicit images or titles likely to cause public offense or alarm. »

It also requires that media reports contain relevant information about appropriate support services for someone contemplating suicide or those who have attempted suicide.

Failure to follow these guidelines could result in a $100,000 fine and up to three months in jail if convicted. There is also a $2 million fine for corporations that also violate the reporting guidelines.

Part V of the bill deals with the provision of outpatient mental health services to people contemplating suicide. Medical personnel may also recommend hospitalization for people suspected of being seriously suicidal. It also sets up emergency hotlines and rapid response vehicles for people seeking suicide assistance.

The bill also imposes the responsibility to report suicide attempts or intentions to the Commission or to an Immediate Response Centre. Medical personnel are also mandated to report suicides or cases of poisoning to the police.

The court can order a person to receive mental health treatment in temporary hospitalization if their condition makes them likely to attempt suicide.

The bill also provides for a $2 million fine and 10 years in prison for anyone who “aids, counsels, instigates or encourages another person to commit suicide.” It also exonerates anyone who, in an attempt to prevent suicide, uses reasonable force against the suicidal person.