Saying ‘no’ happens only when the empowerment tools are provided


A letter writer recently called upon Guyanese to ‘say yes to life, not suicide’. We know that this person means well but if it were that easy then there would be no suicide deaths at all. The simple fact is that people must be armed with tools that would empower them to be able to not see suicide as an option.

A case in point is the recent suicide death of that fifteen-year old student. One tool would have been the training of students and teachers to identify suicide warning signs and act immediately to get help that. Another tool would have been availability of a counselor on the staff. In lieu of that a third tool would have been quick and easy access to a counselor by the school. The most important tool would have been the capacity of the school be proactive and save a life since being reactive does not bring back the dead.

Indeed all we’re left with is a death that was eminently avoidable, embracing circles of agony and pain and finger pointing and fault finding. Media reports indicate that ‘the motive for taking her own life remains a mystery’. But the warning sign was clear and evident – the student threatened to take her life!

Over the years there have been numerous cases of suicide survivors claiming that they thought the suicide victim was joking when he or she talked about wanting to die by suicide. The fact is that when it comes to someone’s life any and all warning signs should catalyze immediate action. It is always better to say sorry for being wrong than to beat the breast and pull the hair in grief and agony.

Meanwhile this tragedy once again puts the issue of school counselors front and center. The reality is that mobile counseling units cannot service schools with the speed, urgency, regularity and adequacy required. So once again we call on the government to reach out to the psychology undergrads of the last few years and set up a pool of trained counselors who can service batches of neighboring schools. And with UG now offering a psychology program, current teachers can be facilitated to take the psychology program so each school can have its own counselor within a few years.

As well teachers and students should be provided ongoing training in mental health and teachers should be tasked with becoming mandated reporters of suicide ideation (and abuse). The Caribbean Voice can does have a workshop for students that has already been taken to a number of schools and youth groups, most recently last month at a school on the East Coast of Demerara.

(https://guyanatimesgy.com/saying-no-happens-only-when-the-empowerment-tools-are-provided/)

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Find jobs for youths – Caribbean Voice appeals to Youth Department


In light of the recent revelation that just about 40 per cent of the country’s youths are unemployed and many are now becoming depressed and even suicidal, The Caribbean Voice is lobbying for the Department of Youth to help young people find jobs.
Representative of the agency, Bibi Ahamad told this newspaper that youths have been approaching the organisation in search of a job, however, they are unable to help as they operate voluntarily.
Ahamad said after working with youths she has realised that most young people have graduated from secondary school with good grades but are unable to secure jobs. “It’s difficult for them to get a job. I know young people who left the University of Guyana and have a degree but can’t get a job and people out of school who have eight and nine subjects and it’s still difficult for them to get a job,” she said.
She further noted that the youth unemployment rate may very well be over 40 per cent in Guyana as she has been personally working with youths, 90 per cent of whom are unemployed.
On this note, The Caribbean Voice spokesperson said that the Government needs to work on job creation for its young people. “They need to create job employment for the youths…they need to put some plan of action in place to assist the youths because you come out of high school and you have eight or nine subjects and you can’t even [get] a job, you become depressed,” she explained.
Ahamad reminded that the Government, before it took office, promised to create job opportunities but the fruits of those promises are yet to be manifested. The activist told Guyana Times that she knows for a fact that youths are becoming depressed and even suicidal because of the lack of jobs, as she has been counselling young people to ensure that they stay on the right path.
In a letter to this publication, The Caribbean Voice said, “We appeal to the Department of Youth to set up and widely publicise a mechanism that can easily and quickly offer job placements for young people across Guyana”.
The organisation believes that the mechanism to help youths can include a component that facilitates placements of vacancies and matches young people seeking jobs with vacancies for which they are suited.
Furthermore, The Caribbean Voice noted that it lauds the “job readiness training” initiative that the Youth Department has announced intention to launch soon. However, the agency said that it looks forward to the training being available in all 10 Administrative Regions as young people all across the country desperate for jobs may very well not know what to do when they join the workforce.
The Youth Department, through its Director Melissa Carmichael, announced last week that it is seeking to implement the training to prepare young people for the world of work. Carmichael pointed out that this project would require officials meeting with young people, not only within fifth and sixth forms, but those who have already left school. According to her, youths require career guidance to prepare them for employment.
Presidential Candidate for the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Irfaan Ali has already blasted the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Government for failing to deliver most of its manifesto promises to the Guyanese people in the more than four years the Administration has been in office, one of which included job creation.
Among the host of promises the PPP has mentioned that will be in its manifesto, is the creation of 50,000 new jobs and according to the party’s presidential candidate, even this figure is too conservative.

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Justice Patterson re-victimising female victims


GECOM Chairman, Justice (retired) James Patterson in a recent letter to the media on the crisis of domestic violence and femicide, stated, “Our women folk must bear some responsibility. It is not wise to be cute and clueless. Women must understand that you have a duty to upgrade yourselves”.
This excursion into the age-old tactic of blaming the victim was, in the words of one member of The Caribbean Voice, “unnerving” and elicited “disbelief”. The fact is that research clearly shows that abuse has nothing to do with the ‘cuteness’, educational status or social standing of victims.
Domestic violence and abuse stem from a desire to gain and maintain power and control over an intimate partner (see wheel of power and control below). Abusive people believe they have the right to control and restrict their partners, and they may enjoy the feeling that exerting power gives them. They believe they can get away with the abuse and far too often they do. In effect, abuse is a choice.
Additionally, Justice Patterson’s remarks, that, “Women have been infected by the orgies of violence and both genders seem to have outsourced their brain,” seems like an attempt to tar both the abused and the abuser with the same brush so as to provide an escape for the abuser by implying that the victim is equally to be blamed.
Justice Patterson adds, “I also understand how women could goad us to fury”. While he follows this up with “Yet, that is no excuse for us to wage a donnybrook in the home of which the headship rests on us,” this remark does not nullify the import of the previous one, which seeks to blame women for their abuse. Again, mountains of research make it clear that provocation (of any and all sorts) is not a cause for abuse.
The second part of the latter remark: “home of which the headship rests on us [men]” is rather startling since the concept of men as head of households reinforces the abuser who feels a sense of entitlement and believes that his life should take priority. As well, abusers often believe that their own feelings and needs should be the priority in their relationships, so they use abusive tactics to dismantle equality and make their partners feel less valuable and less deserving of respect in the relationship.
The Caribbean Voice strongly urges opinion shapers and influencers in our society to always premise their remarks about social issues such as abuse on the facts and the evidence, which are available in mountainous amounts at the click or rolling of a mouse these days. To do as Justice Patterson did in his letter provides justification as well as fuel to abusers while it also re-victimises victims.

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More funding needed to develop youth businesses – The Caribbean Voice


Despite miniature strides to develop youth businesses, The Caribbean Voice believes that the Government needs to do more to help young people develop their businesses as the lack of employment opportunities are making youths suicidal.
This is according to a spokesperson of the organisation, Bibi Ahamad, who recently told Guyana Times that the Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) has taken note of the Department of Youth’s initiative to fund some youth businesses but is of the strong view that it needs to do more.
“They need to do more in communities especially in rural communities you know they need to put something to enhance the community for the youths to probably [benefit like] a playground for sporting activities [or a] resource centre,” Ahamad explained.
The Youth Innovation Programme Of Guyana (YIPOG) was launched in May 2017 under the Education Ministry. Later in September of that year, the Ministry awarded grants to 25 groups that proposed innovative project ideas to be implemented within their communities
It sought to provide the opportunity for Guyanese to design, develop and produce innovative ideas to combat challenges they face within their communities.
In 2018, the project was launched under the Social Cohesion Ministry with responsibility for Culture, Youth and Sport.
At a recent press conference, the Director of Youth, Melissa Carmichael said that the programme has been awarded $70 million this year to be distributed to youths. “The reason this was brought on board is because we recognise that there aren’t the necessary frameworks with regards to the financing [of businesses and] easy access to the banks and so on,” she pointed out.
Last year, several projects were funded by the Department through its Business Summit, each of which received $1 million to kick-start their businesses.
On the other hand, through YIPOG, about 30 persons also received grants through the Department for their Youth Innovation projects.
Those persons received a maximum of $2 million to launch their projects. It was explained that the financing for projects vary on the technicality of same.
For this year, the Department has received over 60 proposals but are catering for about 50.
Unemployment
Only last week, hundreds of young people who are unemployed crowded the Cliff Anderson Sports Hall, Homestretch Avenue, Georgetown, where the Department of Youth held its first job fair to address the scourge of unemployment, which affects some 40 per cent of youths.
Senior Research, Planning and Development Officer within the Department, Adeti De Jesus told Guyana Times that the unemployed youths turned up to the Sports Hall before 07:00h to be interviewed.
In fact, youths who had become desperate for employment after being at home for a number of years took the opportunity to apply online for the job fair prior to the April 12 event.
Some 701 online applications were received, De Jesus said, while other youths showed up to the event without being registered.
The issue of unemployment among Guyanese youths has been on the rise and has been the cause of the hike in robberies and other crimes.
Presidential Candidate for the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Irfaan Ali on April 11 told the media that the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Government has failed to deliver most of its manifesto promises to the Guyanese people in the more than four years the Administration has been in office.
According to Ali, Guyanese have to hold Government accountable for this failure, which has resulted in the hardships many citizens face, especially among the vulnerable groups such as women, the elderly and youths.
He reminded of Government’s promise to stimulate job creation, especially for youths, but instead, they have caused the country to face 37,000 job losses in various economy-driven sectors. He went on to reveal that under the APNU/AFC, Guyana has slipped four positions in the employment rate for the 25-54 age group and seven positions for the age group of 54 to 64 on the Global Human Capital Index.
Among the host of promises the PPP has mentioned that will be in its manifesto, is the creation of 50,000 new jobs and according to the Party’s Presidential Candidate, even this figure is too conservative.

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Youths need jobs and training to stave off mental health issues


According to media reports, the Department of Youth plans to launch a ‘job readiness training’ initiative for youths to better ease them into the workforce. While the reasons given for such an initiative have merit, The Caribbean Voice would like to point out that job readiness training can only be capitalised upon if jobs are readily available.
Our own experiences indicate that this is not so. Over the last two years or so, young people in Guyana have bombarded TCV with requests for jobs. Unfortunately, as a fully volunteer-driven NGO, TCV cannot offer jobs. And there seems to be no mechanism in place to refer them for consideration. As well, the businesses and business entities we touch base with are not able to generate vacancies to meet the needs.
Besides, at the Department’s recent job fair, more than 600 youths were in attendance, but the Department indicated that only about 200 youths were being catered for. And the Minister for youth affairs (among other portfolios), Dr George Norton, has expressed concern that 40 per cent of youths are unemployed.
Our overriding concern is that most of those looking for jobs become overly anxious and depressed with some moving on to suicide ideation. TCV knows this because we have handled many such cases. Thus, we appeal to the Department of Youth to set up and widely publicise a mechanism that can easily and quickly offer job placements for young people across Guyana. That mechanism can include a component that facilitates placements of vacancies and matches young people seeking jobs with vacancies for which they are suited. As well, it is our hope that job readiness training would be offered across Guyana, as many of those young people (in all ten regions) seeking jobs have no marketable skills, which compounds their plight.
On another youth-related matter, while lauding the Hinterland Employment and Youth Service (HEYS) programme, The Caribbean Voice, for the past few years, has been advocating for mental health to be included in the training so that those equipped with skills for advancement would also be prepared to deal with challenges and any form of abuse that comes their way without retreating to low self-esteem, anxiety, depression and suicidal ideation. This necessity becomes all the more critical given that young people, 15-25, still exhibit the highest suicide rate in Guyana and that both suicide and various forms of abuse saturate hinterland communities. In fact, most of our counselling cases have been young people within this age bracket.
While we acknowledge the successes of HEYS as put out by the Government, no data has ever been publicised as to the actual failure rate. If indeed, the success rate is 100 per cent that would be fabulous but since generally that is never the case, the issues that impact failure ought to be addressed, as we are certain that mental health issues would loom large in such situations. In any case, even those who succeed can also benefit for positive mental health training, especially acquisition of coping skills, the ability to face and overcome challenges and to self-forgive, the development of high self-esteem and self-confidence.

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Try Mindfulness


By Annan Boodram & Hiram K. Rampersaud
“It’s easy to stop noticing the world around us. It’s also easy to lose touch with the way our bodies are feeling and to end up living ‘in our heads’ – caught up in our thoughts without stopping to notice how those thoughts are driving our emotions and behaviour,” says Professor Mark Williams, former director of the Oxford Mindfulness Centre. The opposite of this, knowing directly what is going on inside and outside ourselves, moment by moment, is called mindfulness.
“An important part of mindfulness is reconnecting with our bodies and the sensations they experience. This means waking up to the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of the present moment. That might be something as simple as the feel of a banister as we walk upstairs.”
Another important part of mindfulness is an awareness of our thoughts and feelings as they happen moment to moment. “It’s about allowing ourselves to see the present moment clearly. When we do that, it can positively change the way we see ourselves and our lives.”
“Even as we go about our daily lives, we can notice the sensations of things, the food we eat, the air moving past the body as we walk,” says Professor Williams. “All this may sound very small, but it has huge power to interrupt the ‘autopilot’ mode we often engage in day to day, and to give us new perspectives on life.”
Most of us have issues that we find hard to let go and Mindfulness can help us deal with them more productively. We can ask: ‘Is trying to solve this by brooding about it helpful, or am I just getting caught up in my thoughts?’ Awareness of this kind also helps us notice signs of stress or anxiety earlier and helps us deal with them better.
Mindfulness is recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) in the United Kingdom as a way to prevent depression in people who have had three or more bouts of depression in the past. The practice allows people to be present in the moment, rather than sinking into the black hole of negative thoughts, rejection, and self-criticism. This awareness ensures a more holistic response to any situation without being caught up in overwhelming or negative emotions.
As well, mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR ), which typically includes breathing, stretching and awareness exercises has become a recognized way to help people learn to avoid distractions and increase their attention on the task in front of them.
Therapy that incorporates mindfulness can increase quality of life by providing an increased level of mental relief for chronic pain. It allows the mind to observe the pain objectively and accept the sensation’s role in one’s life. Mindfulness can help those who live with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) achieve peace through a clearer mind. Practicing mindfulness also enables people to better deal with drug and alcohol addiction. As well, mindfulness has been shown to lead to better romantic relationships and better sex. In fact, it is a great tool for relationship healing, and can bring about greater overall happiness.
Sarah Stewart-Brown, Professor of Public Health at the University of Warwick in the United Kingdom and a wellbeing expert, says: “Feeling happy is a part of mental wellbeing. But it’s far from the whole”. She added, “Feelings of contentment, enjoyment, confidence and engagement with the world are all a part of mental wellbeing,” as are self-esteem and self-confidence, a feeling that you can do the things you want to do, and good relationships, “which bring joy to you and those around you.”
Practicing mindfulness results in this kind of mental wellbeing. You can practise mindfulness anywhere, but it can be especially helpful to take a mindful approach if you realise that, for several minutes, you have been ‘trapped’ in reliving past problems or ‘pre-living’ future worries. Mindfulness meditation involves sitting silently and paying attention to thoughts, sounds, the sensations of breathing or parts of the body, bringing your attention back whenever the mind starts to wander.
It can be helpful to pick a regular time – the morning journey to work or a walk at lunchtime – during which you decide to be aware of the sensations created by the world around you. Trying new things, such as sitting in a different seat in meetings or going somewhere new for lunch, can also help you notice the world in a new way.
“Some people find it very difficult to practise mindfulness. As soon as they stop what they’re doing, lots of thoughts and worries crowd in,” says Professor Williams. “It might be useful to remember that mindfulness isn’t about making these thoughts go away, but rather about seeing them as mental events. “Some people find that it is easier to cope with an over-busy mind if they are doing gentle yoga or walking.” To develop an awareness of thoughts and feelings, some people find it helpful to silently name them: “Here’s the thought that I might fail that exam”. Or, “This is anxiety”.

PS: Catch our Internet radio and FB live program The Mind Body Connection every Monday on Island Zone Radio from 8 to 10 PM with hosts Shanaz Hussain and Hiram Rampersaud. Log on to The Caribbean Voice Media page on FB for videos of all programs. Also The Caribbean Voice can help you access help for any and all mental health issues. Please email us at caribvoice@aol.com, call 646-461-0574 (Annan), 917-767-2248 (Hiram), 631805-6605 (Shanaz) or 516-286-8952 (Dr. Rodney). Also check out our website at http://www.caribvoice.org for more information.

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Sexual assault perpetrators are usually family members and family friends


By Hiram K. Rampersaud
Every 98 seconds an American is affected by some form of sexual violence. Sexual abuse is any kind of sexual activity that you do not agree to, including:
inappropriate touching, vaginal, anal, or oral sex. It can be verbal, visual, or anything that forces a person to join in unwanted sexual contact or attention. Examples are voyeurism (when someone watches private sexual acts), exhibitionism (when someone exposes him/herself in public), incest (sexual contact between family members), and sexual harassment. It can happen in different situations, with a stranger in an isolated place, on a date, or in the home with someone you know.
Why people don’t report Sexual assault?
Non-reporting is actually the norm when it comes to sexual assault. According to Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network statistics, only one in three sexual assaults is ever reported to the police. College students report a mere 20 percent of their sexual assaults — elderly victims, 28 percent.
A survivor’s relationship to the offender plays a key role in the likelihood of reporting. Research by the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics indicates that if the perpetrator is or once was the survivor’s intimate partner, the victim will report the crime 25 percent of the time. When the offender is a friend or an acquaintance, 18 to 40 percent of the assaults are reported. If the offender is a stranger, victims report assaults roughly half of the time.
Why don’t victims bring charges against their accusers?
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, here are some reasons sexual assault survivors don’t come forward:
• Victims fear retaliation.
• They believe the police won’t believe them or wouldn’t do anything to help them.
• They feel the assault was a personal matter.
• They believe it was not important enough to report.
• They don’t want the offender to get in trouble.
• They don’t want their families or anyone to know.
• They don’t have enough proof.
• They’re unsure of the perpetrator’s intent.
In addition, victims may feel responsible for what happened to them, or embarrassed about their lack of knowledge or judgment. They might feel guilty that they had too much to drink or were engaging in a risky, inappropriate behavior. And young victims living at home might worry that their parents will be angry and unsupportive.
Unfortunately, keeping sexual assault a secret interferes with the survivors’ healing and empowers the predator who might well continue with that behavior. By sharing the trauma with supportive professionals, friends or family members, they can begin to reclaim their lives and bodies and eventually move past the pain and ensure that sexual predators are brought to justice and others are protected from them.
What to say to someone who was sexually assaulted?
The Rape, Assault & Incest National Network suggests using these specific phrases when talking with someone who discloses she or he was sexually assaulted. “I believe you. It took a lot of courage to tell me about this.”
Victims may feel ashamed and worried they’ll be discounted. The best thing you can do is listen and believe them. “It’s not your fault. You didn’t do anything to deserve this.”
Survivors may blame themselves, especially if they know the perpetrator personally. Remind them that they are not to blame. “You are not alone. I care about you and am here to listen or help in any way I can.”
Provide a safe space for the telling of their stories. Assess if there are others in their life who can also be supportive. “I’m sorry this happened. This shouldn’t have happened to you.”
Acknowledge that the experience has been traumatic and has negatively impacted their lives. Statements such as “This must be really tough for you” and “I’m so glad you’re sharing it with me” encourage further communication and let them know you care.
And if the victim is child parents and caregivers must always believe what children say. Immediately establish a plan with other adults so that unsupervised contact with the person who has abused is eliminated. Help the child understand that the person who abused them did something wrong, and that this person needs help to stop hurting others. Pay close attention to the child’s cues about what he or she may need to feel safe. You can also help the child feel safe by demonstrating your willingness to protect their privacy. And get help immediately!

PS: Catch our Internet radio and FB live program The Mind Body Connection every Monday on Island Zone Radio from 8 to 10 PM with hosts Shanaz Hussain and Hiram Rampersaud. Log on to The Caribbean Voice Media page on FB for videos of all programs. Also The Caribbean Voice can help you access help for any and all mental health issues. Please email us at caribvoice@aol.com, call 646-461-0574 (Annan), 917-767-2248 (Hiram), 631805-6605 (Shanaz) or 516-286-8952 (Dr. Rodney). Also check out our website at http://www.caribvoice.org for more information.

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