New York City, June 8, 2015: The Caribbean Voice welcomes the new government with tremendous expectations that new policies and approaches towards suicide and related issues would soon be in place. We are on record as advocating for quite a number of measures to be implemented and in fact, had met with various ministers in the last government as well as stakeholders such as the Rights of the Child Commission, the Guyana Hindu Dharmic Sabbha and the Pesticide Board in attempts to build concerted efforts to tackle social pathologies and dysfunction.
Now we also hope that the long awaited Mental Health Program would be reworked after wide consultations with all stakeholders, and then formalized and rolled out ASAP. Obviously one component of this strategy should include provision for psychologists at all hospitals nationwide as well as periodic visits by psychologists to all clinics within Guyana. Another component should be ongoing education to bring mental health illnesses and related issues out of the state of taboo and to address the associated myths and misinformation. Education, after all, is the key first step towards redress.
Other measures should include:
- Re-launching the Gatekeepers’ Program which the new Minister of Health has already expressed an intention of doing.
- Empowering the Pesticide Board to implement the Shri Lankan Model of Hazard Reduction, which reduced suicide by 50% in less than a decade in Shri Lanka. The Pesticide Board has already given an undertaking to roll out this program.
- Decriminalizing attempted suicide.
- Having more than one social worker in each region and ensuring that the public is fully aware of and maximally capitalizes on their services.
- Establishing a registry of sex offenders and sensitizing the public to its existence and ramifications.
- Facilitating the launching of a national entity to tackle alcoholism and drug abuse.
- Implementing nation wide training for all police officers with respect to handling suicide, abuse and related issues, as well as becoming familiar with the provisions of all related laws.
- Setting up suicide and abuse hotlines manned by trained personnel and compiling a list of phone numbers/personnel nationwide who can be prevailed upon to take action/provide help once calls are made to hotlines.
And because we strongly believe that change is more effective when it starts with the young, we hope that the set of proposals, that were endorsed by the previous Minister of Education, would also be endorsed by the current Minister. Among these proposals are:
- Having counselors in every school – a measure the Minister has already publicly indicated his intent to implement;
- Facilitating a national schools essay contest on suicide and suicide prevention, sponsored by The Caribbean Voice.
- Allowing students nationwide to come out once a year into the community and along with parents and the community, walk, rally and placard against suicide, abuse and related issues.
Also we are aware that other NGOs including CADVA, GRPA, Dharmic Sabbha, CIOG and Monique’s Helping Hands have no dearth of great ideas that need to be given consideration. In fact we endorse the GRPA’s call for a comprehensive approach to sex education and emphasize that parents must be integrally involved in this process for it to engender viable results.
Meanwhile, we believe that an accommodation with all NGOs and activists on the social landscape should be facilitated and a concerted program initiated so mapping can be done and no area would thus be neglected. In this respect we note that the New Jersey Arya Samaj Mission (NJASM) recently completed a skills training center at Port Mourant and that they are offering space for other organizations interested in collaboration. Other organizations such as Save Abee Foundation and Nirvana Humanitarian Foundation also have centers that they are willing to put at the disposal of collaborative efforts.
Thus towards this end The Caribbean Voice is organizing an all day National Stakeholders’ Conference on suicide and related issues on August 21, in collaboration with Cara Hotel, Save Abee Foundation, Office Resources Inc, CADVA, Monique’s Helping Hands and a number of other entities. We are also extending an open invitation to NGO’s and activists on the social landscape to contact us to be involved in the conference. Because we want the conference to be truly national in representation we may not be able to accommodate more than one representative per organization and, in fact would have to operate on a first come basis since seating is limited. Also, because it is a catered conference pre-registration is mandatory. There is no registration fee and we are exploring the possibility of helping organizations in outlying areas with transportation.
For more information and/or to register please send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.