Mental Health Unhealthiness


He posted a heart wrenching appeal, some time after midnight, a few days on the face book page of The Caribbean Voice (www.caribvoice.org), asking for help because he was having familiar feelings of the kind that had driven him to attempt suicide once before. Immediately, some members of the group sprang into action. As we engaged him in chat, someone from the Mental Health Unit of the Ministry of Health joined in and quickly phone-messaged a counselor. It took a while, but eventually the doctor called and set up an appointment for him at the Georgetown Public Hospital, at eight am. We continued to engage him until he went to bed sometime after two that same morning, promising that he would do nothing foolish, but instead would keep the appointment the following day.
As daylight chased away darkness, he informed us that he was keeping his appointment, thankful that he was getting professional help. But his arrival at the hospital created confusion and frustration as no one could direct him to the doctor he was seeking. Frustration was turning to resignation as he texted that he was leaving and going to the seawall to end it all. As one member of The Caribbean Voice kept him engaged, the same personnel from the Mental Health Unit, who had put him in connection with the doctor, hurried to the hospital, some two hours plus after the 19 year had arrived. Yet it took that person almost another hour before she could connect him with the help he needed.
The young man was given attention but refused to stay over for observation, as he was under the popular misconception that only ‘mad’ people are held back at the psych ward and he most definitely was not mad. And while he initially agreed to keep the subsequent appointment some three days later, he later changed his mind. So, The Caribbean Voice continues to engage him, as we usually do with regards to all our cases, hoping that we can still persuade him to take the additional counseling.
This experience begs the following questions:
1. Why was it impossible for hospital staff to direct the young man to psych ward? Surely this information should be available at reception desks and known by all staff?
2. Why was there no mental health professional to meet with the young man until close to 11 am even though he had an 8PM appointment? Surely the staff at the mental health unit knows that delays and consequent frustration can concretize the final act of suicide?
In any case the young man is in an upbeat mood, since he found a temporary job, as his lack of employment was a trigger for his suicidal mindset, especially since it clearly created tension between him and his parents with whom he lives, and for whom he feels responsible. And, having once before attempted suicide, suicide ideation came very easy to him. Frighteningly, however, is that youth unemployment is 40% according to the Caribbean Development Bank, a state of affairs that is fertile ground for youth suicide ideation and actual suicides, and may well already be impacting both, given that so many suicides go unreported. Thus our concern that government seems to be going back on its election campaign promise to provide jobs for the youth. While we applaud the efforts being undertaken thus far, especially by the police and the First Lady, we strongly urge that these be extended nationwide, be as inclusive as possible and be followed by job placements, perhaps in collaboration with the various business associations. We suggest too that all high schools implement summer, work study internships for students moving into fifth forms and perhaps extend this to weekends/evenings where possible during the fifth form years. A job placement program is also needed for all tertiary level educational institutions.
Alarmingly too, the myth that dealing with counseling and the psych ward or the psychiatric institution means someone is ‘mad’, holds tremendous sway in Guyana and that may be why transparent and obvious warning signs are ignored by care givers and loved ones. Far too often, after a suicide, we hear or read that so and so had talked about wanting to take his or her life but those around him/her thought he/she was joking and/or did not take that person seriously. Thus TCV strongly urges the Ministry of Health to embark on a sustained education campaign to combat this myth. As well, we urge the Ministry of Health to make sure that mental health professionals are available 24/7 at public hospitals, especially where there are psych wards and that mechanisms, including signage providing directions, be put in place to make access to such wards easy and quick for anyone seeking help, given that delays and consequential frustration/anger can lead to loss of lives.
This particular case also brings to the fore the suicide hotline. Empirical and anecdotal evidence indicates that Guyanese are hardly utilizing the hotline and we do recall that an appeal last year for figures to be released was met with deafening silence in spite of claims of its success. The Caribbean Voice has been publicizing the hotline via our self-esteem pledge which has been distributed to schools and communities in many parts of Guyana. However, it is critical that the Ministries of Public Security and Health embark on an ongoing, national campaign to make the suicide hotline a household item and to encourage citizens to make use of it with the promise of absolute confidentiality every time. As well statistical and related evidence proving its extensive use and success ought to be made public, as this will bolster wide spread confidence in its effectiveness. After all, it would have been quicker for the young man to call the hotline and get help than to reach out to TCV via Face book.
On the issue of confidentiality, TCV has also found that too many Guyanese are still skeptical of counselors and counseling because of claims that confidentiality is not often kept. In fact, the grapevine revealed that a suicide prevention activist, who committed suicide last year, might have done so partly because the confidentiality she was promised was breached. That is why the promise of confidentiality with regards to the suicide hotline is so absolutely critical. And perhaps that is why, far too often, those seeking help emphatically refuse counseling in Guyana and/or by Guyanese, when we place that on the table for them.
Also, this case and many others that TCV has handled over the last two years, make it clear that mental healthcare has to be national in scope and easy of access. Thus TCV reiterates its call for mental health care to be integrated into the physical heath care system, per the recommendation of the World Health Organization, for nations like Guyana. And we urge that a look be taken at the Shri Lankan Model in this respect, as that nation has Very successfully implemented this integration.
For the record our interventions are pro bono and while we do have our own complement of counselors we also do sometimes refer cases to various counselors in Guyana with whom we have developed relationships, and who also offer their services free of charge to our referrals. Incidentally, not all of our cases are related to suicide. In fact we have handled domestic violence, sex abuse and rape, child abuse and alcoholism cases as well, and while most of our cases are from Guyana we have dealt with cases in a number of other countries as well, since people seek us out through our Internet and social media presence.

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Please take politics of out of suicide prevention; this is about saving lives


The Caribbean Voice is deeply saddened by the fact that political posturing trumped the need to save lives as “a parliamentary motion expressing concern for Guyana’s alarming suicide rate, quickly descended into a politicised debate marked by blame-throwing” (as one local media described it). Indeed a motion calling for urgent action to save lives transformed into an argument as to who’s stealing who’s work, as our smart politicians sought to score political points rather than come together to arrest the suicide epidemic that is stalking the land.
The fact of the matter is that the PPP, while in government, aborted the one mechanism that was beginning to make a difference, the Gatekeepers Program. And while the Pesticide Board had agreed to roll out an adaptation of the Shri Lankan Hazard Reduction Model to tackle pesticide suicide, that went nowhere after the change of Government last May.
Also we all know that current government just completed one year in office but at the beginning of that year the promises rained down while the only mechanism put in place so far is the suicide hotline that has neither been widely publicized nor is used to any significant extent by the population. We are still waiting for the roll out of counselors in schools, which, according to Education Minister, Dr. Rupert Roopnarine, was set to start earlier this year, in February. Ditto for the other measures talked about – Gatekeepers’ Program, a mechanism to address pesticide suicide, implementation of the Mental Health Plan and so on.
So it befuddles the mind that our politicians are quarreling about who’s stealing who’s thunder while suicide continues to be a ‘norm’ with at least 15 so far for August, of which at least eight were not reported in the media! Perhaps more befuddling however, is this constant urge to reinvent the wheel when there are already tried and tested strategies, measures and best practices that can be adapted to suit the Guyana social landscape. This constant reinventing, which always seem to be arrested mid stream, eats up financial and other resources, time and efforts that can significantly help in tackling the range of mental health and social issues that stalk the land.
Furthermore, given that the call for collaboration echoed by both sides of the house, one would have thought that our political leaders would pit heads together and come up with a plan whose implementation would reflect the urgency of necessary action. One option would have been to send the bill to committee to thrash out something acceptable at a bipartisan level that would not water down the necessary mechanisms for suicide prevention. Another suggestion would be to set up a broad based committee that includes the government, opposition, civil society and NGO stakeholders to rework the motion and have it jointly sponsored by a member of the gov’t and a member of the opposition.
Meanwhile the process of collaboration can start immediately with the only other thing both sides agreed one – decriminalizing attempted suicide. We call upon the relevant ministry to draft the necessary legislation and lay it in parliament ASAP and we request the opposition to give full support so this archaic law can be taken off the books.
Given the spate of murder/suicide/attempted suicide and of youth suicide and attempted suicide over the past few months, addressing violence in general and suicide and abuse in particular are becoming increasingly urgent imperatives. Thus we sincerely hope that the government, especially the relevant ministries, will immediately begin to transform rhetoric into action and roll out the various plans and measures that have been propagated over the last year or so. And we also hope that efforts would seriously be made to include the NGOs that are actually bending their backs to make a difference so that they can be able to extend and expand their work, especially in the rural areas and countryside, where the need is greatest. To protest that resources are not available to do what needs to be done would be so facetious given the almost one billion dollar spent on a park used for the Jubilee celebration and the additional billions spent on the many faceted, lavish manifestations of this celebration. Surely our government cannot argue that partying is more critical than saving lives and empowering people.
On another note we were so happy to notice that self-esteem was on the menu for training program for young ladies held recently. While the news article did not mention it, we also hope coping skills was included. However, we want to point out, as we have done before, that self esteem and coping skills must be included in all training programs, anywhere, especially for the young, since it is evident that lack of these two skill sets significantly contribute to both suicide and abuse. We also reemphasize that any and all such training programs must not be one off but should be taken countrywide, to have a sustained, national effect.
And speaking of collaboration, The Caribbean Voice and the 25 plus NGO partners, welcome the endorsement of Public Security Minister, Khemraj Ramjattan for “Voices Against Violence National Candlelight Vigil” set for World Suicide Prevention Day, September 10. We hope other Ministries and even President Granger will find it possible to also endorse this vigil, which aims to bring communities together to harness efforts for social action, and to urge all communities to get involved. To date over 25 vigils are confirmed in almost all the regions, and we expect this figure to more than double by the time September 10 comes around.
Meanwhile we also urge communities and all organizations to band together and plan vigils in communities across Guyana. For further information, clarification, assistance and to have vigils mapped and publicized, please call Bibi at 621-6111 or 223-2637, Pandit Deodat at 627-4432, Keshni Rooplall at 697-9968, Nazim S Hussain at 644-1152, Dolly Singh at 266-5617. Send email to bibiahamad1@hotmail.com, keshni.rooplall@yahoo.com, deodatpersaud25@yahoo.com or caribvoice@aol.com.

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Suicide Prevention is Wholistic


In response to our invitation to become part of the solution to social pathologies such as alcoholism, suicide, rape, drug use, child abuse, domestic violence and the like, Mr Nowrang Persaud stated, “While I unconditionally applaud all efforts to minimize the negative fallout from alcoholism, suicide, domestic and other forms of violence, I firmly believe that the chances of success in remedial or corrective actions are greater, if we work at the grass-roots level where we can more effectively ‒ as indeed I have been trying to do for the longest while ‒ help to minimize the incidence and the problems”.
The Caribbean Voice (TCV) could not agree more. In fact, TCV conducts a monthly outreach to various communities in Guyana (two have been done so far in July – St. Cuthbert’s Mission and Mora Point, Mahaicony) as well as monthly self-esteem workshops for youth and students. TCV is also aware of the work done by the many NGOs on the ground, in communities, having brought over 70 of these NGOs together for the only ever National Stakeholders’ Conference on Suicide and Related Issues, last August at the Cara Lodge – one of our many, many partners.
Even though TCV is manned by unpaid volunteers, who also work 9 to 5 to put food on the table and take care of families, and even though our only funding come from our own pockets and the support of friends and well-wishers, our approach has been wholistic. Thus, in addition to the community outreaches and workshop, we are engaged in regular media advocacy to disseminate information to combat myths and misinformation on the one hand and bring awareness on the other. Additionally we, (along with others) are also engaged in ongoing lobbying that has seen the launch of the suicide hotline last year and a promise made by the Minister of Education to have counselors placed in schools. We continue to lobby for the latter as well as measures to tackle pesticide suicide (citing the Shri Lankan Model as an exemplar), integration of mental health care within the existing physical care system (as advocated by the World Health Organization) relaunch of the Gatekeepers’ Program (which would directly impact communities), giving more teeth to the Sexual Offences Act, sensitivity training for police and other government personnel, and so on. To this end we have also held meetings with many policy shapers and decision makers and are seeking to have further meetings. Also, currently we have two online petitions calling for the establishment of a registry of sex offenders and raising the age of consent to 18 years. We hope to present the signatures for both petitions to the President, some time next year.
It is within the wholistic context that the Voices Against Violence Candle Light Vigil on September 10 is located. At the minimum, the vigil will bring communities together to focus on anti-violence and hopefully lay the groundwork for these communities to continue to act together in combating all forms of violence, while agitating for resources and supports from various levels of government as well as facilitating community/NGO collaboration. Additionally, in collaboration with partners and other stakeholders, TCV engages in pro-bono counseling and counseling support, with respect to the range of issues – suicide, child abuse, domestic violence, rape, alcoholism, drug use, incest.
Finally, considering that Mr. Persaud claims to be engaged in social activism at the grass roots level and given that we strongly believe in and foster the collaborative approach – conference last August, workshops and outreaches in collaboration with NGOs such as GIVE Foundation, Orchid Foundation, Save Abee Foundation, Monique’s Helping Hands, CADVA, NJASM Humanitarian Mission, Nirvana Humanitarian Foundation, Citizens Against Rape, and others, a dozen NGOs already partnering in the vigil with more to come on board, as well as a number of individual social activists – we again extend an invitation to Mr. Persaud, to become a partner in this effort as a first step to joining the collaborative and wholistic approach, which is not only highly cost effective but gets more done every time and with greater and more enduring impact. Given his expertise and experiences, Mr Persaud should be very much aware of the many advantages of a collaborative, concerted, wholistic approach to problem solving.

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Bribery Has Become The Norm


A young man, whose truck does almost daily trips from the Corentyne to Georgetown, was stopped by a policeman on the approaches to the Berbice River bridge, and cited for having a rider in the cab without a seat belt – there were three riders there but only two wore seat belts. So he had to bribe – $5,000 each on days one, two and three. On the fourth day, he handed his cell phone to one of the riders and told him to hold the phone so it was visible to young policeman. Then he went up to the policeman and said, “You see that cell phone? I have pictures of you receiving money from me for the past three days. If you ever stop this truck again I will send those photos to newspapers and to your superiors.” That particular policeman never again stopped his truck again but was seen stopping other vehicles along the same stretch of road.
A drunk businessman was stopped by a policeman, who demanded his license and registration, and then told him, “Come to the station tomorrow and collect your documents.” The next day, upon the businessman’s arrival at the police station, a sum of $20,000 was demanded of him. After forking over the money he was given his documents and sent home.
Indeed bribery is the norm in Guyana. Yet the various audits commissioned by the current government focused significantly on corruption, real or perceived, with little mention of bribery, which has become embedded in every facet of life in Guyana. This writer has listened to narration of percentages built into contracts, of greasing hands to prevent the royal run around at every level of the bureaucracy, of drivers on the road preferring to give a ‘lil’ piece to the police rather than facing the hassle of going to court and losing much more in terms of earnings, of bribes speeding up every process from getting drivers license to obtaining copies of birth and death certificates…
The fact that the current government claimed that raising salaries of ministers was a move aimed at preventing bribery in an indication that the David Granger administration is fully aware of the pervasive nature of bribery in Guyana. So if raising salaries is the way to go then should not salaries be raised across the board? The fact, however, is that in Guyana bribes are often offered even before being asked for. When this is not done, a system of well-known, non-verbal cues are displayed to get the message across. This issue is compounded by the fact that Diaspora Guyanese, who do not want to be bothered by the hassle, will willingly shell out bribes for whatever.
In effect stamping out bribery is not about raising salaries, but rather about changing norms/behavior and any such impacting mechanism must be aimed at the entire equation – the bribe giver plus the bribe taker. Such a mechanism must also be institutionalized so it does not operate at the whims and fancies of anyone. It must be consistently applied and supported by the legal and other systems of consequences. So perhaps, since it’s the season of commission of inquiries (COI), how about one on bribery that would take evidence, foster consultations and then craft the desired mechanism? In the meanwhile a start can be made by the Police Complaints Authority, and other like minded institutions, ensuring that every allegation of bribery made is investigated in a timely manner and where necessary appropriate action taken.

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Suicide is not about unhappy people


According to Guyana’s President, David Granger, unhappy people commit suicide. The President has publicly stated this on a number of occasions, seemingly giving the impression that this explains everything: one is unhappy, thus, one commits suicide. Had this really been the case then a majority of the world’s population would have been committing suicide. The reality, however, is that this is a simplistic, perhaps even reductionist perspective, about a complex, multi faceted issue, and one would really hope that given his reputation as a scholar and researcher, President Granger, would not pronounce in such a manner on an issue that is nearing epidemic proportions in Guyana.
Yes indeed, people may be unhappy leading up to the act of finality but it is not the happiness in itself that leads to suicide; rather it is the factor or combination of factors that create the unhappiness and the agonizing pain – physical, psychological, emotional – that drives suicide.
Regarding research that the President has also called for, a number of times, The Caribbean Voice is of the view that additional research is really not a priority as factors that drive suicide have already been documented by various researchers and studies. Essentially these are abusive and dysfunctional relationships; teenage affairs and pregnancy; rape and incest; an inability to deal with problems and challenges (lack of coping skills) and/or unbearable pain – physical or emotional – which generally give rise to awful agony and depression and feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, powerlessness and loneliness.
In the context of Guyana also, suicide has become normative, to a certain extent, and thus is not only seen as a solution to life’s challenges but also as just another choice instead of a last, desperate option. Furthermore, suicidal mindsets are prone to copycatting, a practice referred to as the Werther Effect and catalyzed by alcoholism; lack of empathetic communication and low levels of self-acceptance and/or feelings of inadequacy.
The President has also hit upon the approaches to addressing suicide, all of which have been in the public domain for quite a while now. So yes a collaborative approach involving all stakeholders nationally is an ideal but in this respect we must point out that the prevailing overwhelming focus on Georgetown negates the national collaborative approach. There is critical need to reach into communities and rural areas throughout Guyana, in order to include them in any suicide prevention campaign. Secondly, the approach must be multilayered and encompassing, so as to address all the factors. At the crux of this campaign should be a priority on an integrated health care system as advocated by the World Health Organization, with basic mental health training provided to all health care workers and other stakeholders; especially given that for many, depression precedes the act of suicide and also because individuals dealing with mental and physical health issues often end up committing suicide. Additional measures, some of which have already been promised, must include:
➢ placement of counselors in schools, which was supposed to have started since February;
➢ introduction of the Health and Family Program in schools, especially focusing on social and empowerment issues including self esteem, self-forgiveness and self acceptance;
➢ bringing back the Gatekeepers Program, hand in hand with a ‘Train The Trainers’ Program so that every community can have eyes and ears that will act proactively to tackle suicide prevention and related issues;
➢ establishment of a support network to ease the effects of poverty, unemployment and under employment, and that must include skills training for the young in a concerted and holistic manner rather than randomly and selectively;
➢ legal enforcement of laws (to include raising the age of consent to 18 and establishing a registry of sex offenders) to address abuse, especially partner and sexual abuse and mechanisms in place to help victims of abuse deal with the trauma and other effects of their abuse;
➢ putting in place measures to address pesticide suicide – the Shri Lanka Model or something similar;
➢ an ongoing campaign to develop self esteem and coping skills;
➢ an ongoing education campaign to counter myths and misinformation and arm citizens with facts, information and suicide prevention strategies;
➢ measures in place, supported by legal enforcement, to curb alcoholism and drug use.
The bottom line is that neither is there need to reinvent the wheel or to expend huge sums of money. A genuine collaborative approach, with inclusive planning, coordination, mapping and oversight, where volunteerism is a key facet, and entities at all levels can be incorporated, will make it not that difficult to implement these measures and maintain a national focus with respect to suicide prevention. The Caribbean Voice stands ready to lend its humble efforts to such an endeavor.

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Voices Against Violence – National Anti-Violence Vigil


“Voices Against Violence” is an attempt to get communities across Guyana involved in anti-violence activism, while fostering the concept of communal action for community well being. This candle light vigil, set for World Suicide Prevention Day, September 10, 2016, is an initiative that is inexpensive and easy to organize – each participant simply needs a candle or can even use a cell phone – and that brings communities together. Thus vigils can be organized by religious institutions, local businesses, sports and youth clubs, political party groups…just about any entity or set of individuals including schools. Where possible two or more groups can collaborate. Each vigil can select routes around the community, end at a central point or any other selected place where the participants can be accommodated and hold a rally whereby preselected individuals from within or without the community can speak on the theme of anti-violence and, if desired, inter faith prayers can be conducted. During the walk about anti-violence slogans can be chanted.
For the purposes of this vigil all of the following are considered acts of violence either against self or others: trafficking, suicide, drug and alcohol addiction, domestic and child abuse, rape, incest, teenage pregnancy, road carnage, dysfunctional relationships, neglect of the elderly, abuse of the mentally and physically challenged. Besides, relationship violence and its dysfunctional socialization spawn, which are more and more looming as issues of critical urgency, can and do shape personalities that easily gravitate towards crime and attending violence. Thus, violence should be addressed holistically and when communities come together they can begin to become more caring and build more togetherness while getting their feet wet in the practice of mindfulness. In effect, anti-violence must become everybody’s business and immediately so! The candle light vigil, held in communities throughout the nation, is a step in this direction.
At the end of the day, Guyana is small enough, both in terms of demographics and inhabited landscape, for this vigil to be eminently doable, especially given that most of what needs to be harnessed is already in place. In fact, Guyana’s history teaches that politics, race, religion are never obstacles in the face of people’s willpower and resolve. Besides, the vigil will foster community collaboration, focus on saving lives and preventing harm, and foster the process of societal transformation.
Currently The Caribbean Voice, Golden Om Dharmic Youth, Save Abee Foundation, Orchid Foundation, Anna Catherina Islamic Complex, NJASM, Art of Living (Guyana), Nirvana Humanirarian Foundation, Imagine Nation Foundation and GIVE Foundation, are the organizations coordinating this vigil. But as the days go by we hope to have other NGOs involved, as well as the media and government agencies and ministries. Also we appeal to local and community leaders, businessmen and other influentials as well as community organizations, including religious institutions and sports club, to please help bring off this activity by ensuring that a vigil is organized in every community, collaboratively where possible. If anyone can spearhead a vigil, or knows of an individual or entity, who can be instrumental in organizing vigils please touch base with us.
So that we can map all vigils, provide any necessary assistance, including publicity and ensure that all vigils are acknowledged and lauded, The Caribbean Voice is requesting that all vigil organizers/potential organizers do contact us ASAP. In Guyana call Bibi at 621-6111 or 223-2637, Pandit Deodat at 627-4432 or Chandanie at 697-9968. In North America call Anna at 646-461-0574, Ty at 646-589-3135 or Sham at 954-778-3222. Send email to bibiahamad1@hotmail.com, keshni.rooplall@yahoo.com, deodatpersaud25@yahoo.com or caribvoice@aol.com. IM Deodat Persaud, Chandanie Rooplall, Bibi Ahamad, Ty Talbot or Annan Boodram on Facebook.

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TCV Launches Community Outreach and Students’ Self Esteem Workshops


In its continuing efforts at suicide prevention, The Caribbean Voice launched its community outreach and students’ self esteem workshop in Demerara in April.
The community outreach is geared towards reaching out to communities from where suicide emanates and within which suicide potential is potent and investing in sessions that enable such communities to voice their fears, concerns, experiences and suggestions. Additionally, the outreach provides the communities with strategies and information that will help them to be proactive first responders for their respective communities.
Held at Parfaite Harmonie on April 8th, 2016, in collaboration with lead organizer, Orchid Foundation, along with GIVE Foundation, the inaugural community outreach focused on self-esteem, suicide awareness and prevention and related issues, especially teenage pregnancy. Presenters included Bibi Ahamad, Chandanie Rooplall and Rayon Mantoos of TCV, Dr. Mark and Ms. Indra Constantine of Orchid Foundation and Daniel Ali of GIVE Foundation.
According to Dr. Constantine, “We From the Orchid Foundation found it an extreme delight to have Partnered with CaribeanVoice in the hosting of a Community Awareness outreach on Suicide Awareness and Prevention. The session was very well attended with some 45 people from the community of Parfaite Harmonie and its environs in attendance. It is my hope that we would be able to, in the future, partner again for such programs in other communities, as we together seek to inform and educate the Guyanese populace on these social issues.”
Daniel Ali of GIVE Foundation, added, “Overall I think the audience was well informed. They got to know about the suicide hotline , the reason(s) why the Caribbean Voice is pleading with the Government for the age of consent to be raised from 16 to 18 , and also they got an to opportunity to better understand the dilemma in today’s society regarding suicide and depression. The audience received leaflets with the suicide hotline numbers and words of encouragement to build their ‘self esteem’. In addition they got brochures revealing information about suicide, prepared by the Give Foundation.”
The occasion was also used to launch TCV two petitions, calling on H.E. President David Granger and his government to establish a registry of sex offenders and raise the age of consent to 18 years. Attendees also signed and pocketed the “ME” pledge developed by The Caribbean Voice and lunched during a press conference at Cara Hotel on February 9th. The pledge encourages self-esteem awareness and provides the suicide hotlines to signers. This pledge has already been widely distributed, including to a number of schools in Berbice and Demerara.
The self-esteem workshop is a follow up to similar workshops held last year in high schools in Berbice, by the New Jersey Humanitarian Mission (NJASM), in collaboration with Peace Corp and the Ministry of Education. It provides students with information and strategies to build self-esteem, develop self confidence and practice self forgiveness. The occasion is also used to interact with students to solicit first hand information and views about suicide and general mental health issues, drawn from their experiences and experiences from their schools and communities.
Held at Covent Garden Secondary School on April 28th, in collaboration with lead organizer, GIVE Foundation, along with POTS, GRPA and the US Ambassador Youth Program, the self-esteem workshop was combined with another community outreach. Based on feedback and information gathered, GIVE Foundation, The Caribbean Voice and other stakeholders will return to the same venue for a follow up. Also in the coming months this workshop hopefully would be taken to secondary schools and youth entities throughout Guyana, again in partnerships with locally based groups and other stakeholders.
It must be noted that both in Berbice as well as at the workshop at Covent Garden Secondary, it was learnt that many young people suffer from depression and suicide ideation as well as sexual and physical abuse, which are often hidden via threats and appeal to family ‘honor’.
Meanwhile, The Caribbean Voice extends an open invitation to community based organizations, faith based organizations, educational institutions and other NGOs and locally based entities to contact us to organize outreaches and self esteem workshops in communities and schools across Guyana. Call Bibi at 621-6111 or 223-2637, Pandit Deodat at 627-4432, Chandanie at 697-9968 or email bibiahamad1@hotmail.com or caribvoice@aol.com or caribbeanvoice101@gmail.com.

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