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CARICOM – Different Cultures, One Aim: Suicide Prevention

Suicide and suicidal behavior have emerged as major public health problems in the Caribbean. Guyana and Suriname have been reported by the World Health Organisation as among the countries with the highest rates of suicide in the world. Trinidad and Tobago and Cuba are also  countries with relatively high rates of mortality from suicide. While many other Caribbean countries have very low suicide rates, suicidal behavior and self harm are presenting as important public health and emergency department problems in most of the Caribbean. These problems affect young people disproportionately with rates highest in young adults and therefore are impacting negatively on economic and social development. Surveillance and reporting of suicidal behavior remain problematic and inconsistent and there are few systematic suicide prevention programmes in operation.

Agricultural weedicide and pesticide ingestion particularly of paraquat and the organophosphates remain the most frequently used method of suicide in the Caribbean, although hanging is also now increasing in frequency. The role of poisoning requires services such as poison centres and legislative policy to support and enforce safer use and storage of these agricultural chemicals. Self mutilation mostly cutting as a form of self harm or non suicidal self injury is also increasing in frequency especially in urban social environments in the Caribbean. This reality demands a cohesive and comprehensive response to the problem of suicidal behavior in the Caribbean.  Improved services for individuals and families affected by suicidal behaviour and commitment to the establishment of national suicide prevention programmes are among the priorities requiring urgent attention. Other social and community prevention strategies, intervention protocols and postvention support and follow up are all sorely needed. The time for action is now.

Aim of the Caribbean Regional Symposium

To identify key issues in suicidal behaviour in the Caribbean Region in order to formulate cohesive, relevant and evidence based strategies by bringing together networks working in the field of suicide prevention and to share knowledge, skills, research and good practices in preventing suicide.

It is estimated that over 800 000 people die by suicide, a “global” mortality rate of 16 per 100,000, or one death every 40 seconds.  Although traditionally suicide rates have been highest among the male elderly, rates among young people have been increasing to such an extent that they are now the group at highest risk in a third of countries, in both developed and developing countries.

The 3rd Caribbean Regional Symposium will bring together researchers, practitioners, helpline workers, programme planners, graduate students, those within the community and anyone affected by suicidal persons, from a range of disciplines from within Trinidad & Tobago, the Caribbean Region and around the world.

This Symposium will focus on evidence based research, best practice and innovative suicide prevention activities.  The Symposium will also provide opportunity to encourage young researchers and practitioners together with mentorship and training.