The Caribbean Voice Takes Its Message to Berbice


The Caribbean Voice (TCV) once again broke new grounds by taking the discussion on suicide awareness and prevention to the airwaves in Berbice. On the evening of August 26, a panel discussion was held on NCN Berbice from 7 to 8 pm. Panelists were Bibi Ahamad, TCV Managing Director; Norkah Carter, Secretary and Head of the Technical Team; Annan Boodram, President and Nazim Hussain, Marketing and Public Relations Director, who also moderated the program.
The panel discussed the prevalence of suicide in Guyana, especially in Berbice and pointed out that with the ingestion of agro-chemicals being the main form of committing suicide, there is an urgent need for farmers to implement safe storage, use and disposal of these poisons. Annan Boodram pointed out that while the Ministry of Agriculture has indicated that they have an ongoing farmers education program to this effect, this should be followed up by a mechanism to ensure implementation and monitoring of safety measures. He added that The Caribbean Voice has been advocating for the Shri Lankan Model of Hazard Reduction which had reduced suicide in that nation by 50% over the course of a decade or so and, in fact, had met with the Pesticide Board and a few other stakeholders at which point the Pesticide Board had agreed to roll out a modification of that model in May this year. To date that has not happened. However, while citizens are awaiting more comprehensive measures and greater monitoring by government, TCV is urging farmers and others who use agro-chemicals and other poisons to:
– Have a reliable adult purchase such chemicals and poisons;
– Ensure that each household has a secure strong box or storage safe that is always locked and accessed by the most reliable person in the household;
– Practice safe usage at all times by only the person who needs to use the chemicals;
– Ensure safe disposal of all empty containers.
Meanwhile, drawing on her more than two decades of tremendous counseling experience, Norkah Carter emphasized that communication is critical. Take five minutes of your day to talk with someone and to listen without judging she said, adding that, if necessary get someone else involved – a Priest, Pandit or Imam, a family or community elder and so on. Norkah outlined the warning signs that include any sudden change in behavior and any language that indicates a feeling of being overwhelmed, tremendous frustration, wanting to give up or end one’s life. She also pointed out that typically, a person starts to give out warning signs about six months in advance and thus there is enough time for anyone who is alert enough and is aware of the signs, to be able to reach out and help that person access necessary help. In effect TCV is urging Guyanese to all become aware of the warning signs which are easily available on the Internet, including the ‘Suicide Prevention’ link on TCV website – http://www.caribvoice.org. An investment of a bit of time and effort can save lives.

Also, Ms Carter appealed to parents and significant others to always take very seriously any warning signs or language and to never ever tell someone that you would give that person poison or in any way encourage anyone to go ahead and commit suicide, even in jest. All members of the panel emphasized that we must be our neighbor’s keeper and that community members should always look out for each other and reuse to mind their own business if lives are suspected to be at stake. It is always better to be safe than to be sorry.
Nazim Hussain pointed out that those who find peace and comfort in their religion should turn to their religious leaders when they face problems that seem too much to handle or when they feel like giving up. Norkah Carter reinforced this point, since talking to someone with whom one is comfortable and willing to open up and confide in, is a critical first step to getting help. And religious leaders are urged to also do some research so as to be familiar with strategies that can help – empathetic communication, an understanding of the suicidal mindset, the capacity to recognize when faith based counseling may not be enough and to then help the individual access professional help.
The panel also discussed the issue of the law that criminalizes attempted suicide and posited that perhaps this could be an impetus towards increasing attempted ending in actual suicides, since those aware of the fact that attempted suicides could lead to their prosecution and imprisonment, may want to ensure that their attempts are final. Thus The Caribbean Voice, and its partners are of the firm view that attempted suicide should be decriminalized and that those who attempt suicide should be provided with requisite help.
Bibi Ahamad informed listeners about the recent National Stakeholders Conference on Suicide and Related Issues and the El Dorado Awards that were held on August 21 and 22 respectively at Cara Hotel in Georgetown. In fact, Pandit Suresh Sugrim, of the New Jersey Arya Samaj Humanitarian Mission (NJASM), was presented with his award on air, since he had been unable to attend the event in Georgetown. Annan Boodram emphasized that the rationale for the awards is to bring attention to and recognize the quiet heroes and heroines who give of their time, efforts and resources to make a difference and to link them to other stakeholders in ongoing efforts to create a collaborative and holistic approach towards tackling suicide and related issues. The El Dorado Awards would be held annually.
Listeners were urged to log on to The Caribbean Voice’s website – http://www.caribvoice.org – and click on the links to the various social media pages (facebook, twitter, instagram, youtube, tumblr, blog and pinterest) for information and other resources and to also directly contact The Caribbean Voice, if necessary. The recently instituted police hotline numbers were also continually flashed on screen throughout the program and listeners were urged to copy the numbers and have them readily available to use, if needed.
Members of The Caribbean Voice also appealed to the business and professional community to come on board to facilitate programs like this one on a regular basis, in every region in Guyana. To partner for this purpose, Nazim Hussain can be contacted at hussainnazim18@yahoo.com or at 644-1152.
Finally, in keeping with TCV’s theme ‘suicide prevention is everybody’s business’ listeners were invited to become involved in suicide prevention and redressing of related issues by joining The Caribbean Voice or any other organization involved in tackling such issues. Those interested in being associated with The Caribbean Voice can send email to caribvoice@aol.com, bibiahamad1@hotmail.com or gtposse72@hotmail.com. Calls can be made to 621-6111 or 223-2637 (Guyana) or 718-542-4454 (US & Canada).

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About caribvoice

Free lance journalist, educator and community activist. Guyana born New York based.
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