Guyana was the site of the Jonestown Massacre of 1978. when 918 members of the People’s Temple religious organization died from self-inflicted cyanide poisoning. Jonestown, located in northwestern Guyana, was the site of a commune belonging to the group.
Although the disastrous outcome of the Jonestown Massacre does not directly correlate with Guyana’s ongoing suicide epidemic, it certainly sheds insight into the country’s dark history with self-inflicted death. The University of Guyana organized a Panel with aims of explaining the High Suicide Rate in the Country. They found that the significant factors contributing to this high rate were relationship issues, political conflicts, poverty, crime etc. Statistics reveal Indo-Guyanese account for 80% of suicides, despite making up just 40% of the population in the six-race nation. Most are aged 15 to 34, with almost four men to each female. Poisoning by agricultural pesticides accounts for 65% of these cases.
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Suicide is particularly prevalent in Guyana’s rural agricultural communities. Many Indo-Guyanese are farmers so they have easy access to lethal pesticides. Health professionals have brought attention to areas of deep poverty, where alcohol abuse along with the availability of deadly substances has contributed majorly to suicides in particularly rural areas. Also pointed at is the fact that many poor farmers in rural areas have access to specific herbicides and pesticides, making them more prone to suicidal behavior.