In 2000, a landmark study – The Shadow of Death: A recent study of suicides in Guyana, Incidence, Causes and Solutions – reported that the majority of those committing suicide were young males below the age of 35 years. They were likely to be poorly educated, employed in low-income occupations, reside in the same community all their lives and to be less likely to have children.
In Guyana almost all suicides are committed by ingesting poisons, especially agri-based and by hanging and are the results of abusive and dysfunctional relationships; teenage affairs and pregnancy; rape and incest; an inability to deal with problems/challenges and/or unbearable pain – physical or emotional – which generally give rise to awful agony and depression and feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, powerlessness and loneliness. 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.
What all of this points to is transparent, even though minimally addressed especially by government – low self esteem and lack of coping skills. Self-esteem is the internal knowledge that people are capable of handling anything that life throws at them. Self-esteem is a feeling of self-worth and an understanding that everyone are capable human beings who are strong and resilient. People with a high level of self esteem are confident in their abilities; handle stress and problems well and are able to hold their heads up high and feel good about them even when they screw up.
According to Yahoo! Answers, “Self-esteem is your opinion of yourself. High self-esteem is a good opinion of oneself, and low self-esteem is a bad opinion of oneself. The way people feel about themselves, has a huge affect on the way they treat themselves, and others, and on the kinds of choices they make. It affects how we think and act and how we react to challenges. It has a direct bearing on one’s happiness and wellbeing.”
Writing on the website PsychCentral, Elizabet Venzin quotes psychiatrist Dr. Kevin Solomons, who wrote the book Born to be Worthless: The Hidden Power of Low Self-Esteem, as saying, “Low self-esteem can get us to make self-destructive decisions such as tolerating mistreatment or harming ourselves (by using drugs, becoming promiscuous, developing eating disorders or indulging in cosmetic surgery), or harming others (bullying, cheating) in an effort either to make others love us or to numb us to the pain of our own worthlessness.”
Also, if a child has low-self esteem, he/she likely won’t feel comfortable around new people or situations and may tend to avoid anything unfamiliar. Often, he/she will be hesitant to take risks or move out of his/her comfort zone. With this type of behavior, the child may miss valuable social opportunities and situations where to learn and grow.
Low self-esteem in children often is the result of abuse, dysfunctional family relationships and lack of emphatic communication, all of which are significantly exist on Guyana’s social landscape. Without being provided with coping skills to deal with low self-esteem, such children may grow up into adults who then become abusive, depressed and suicidal.
In effect, low self-esteem is a precursor to abuse of all types as well as violence. It also results in depression and anxiety, both of which lead to suicide. For these reasons developing self-esteem and coping skills play a critical part of all training carried out by The Caribbean Voice (TCV). Current training programs are the:
- Youth and Student Workshop, which has been presented to a number of schools and youth groups and which has been endorsed by the Ministry of Education which plans to make it part of the Health and Family Life Education curriculum in schools. A train the trainer session is currently being planned for West Coast Berbice to be attended by youth representatives who can they pass on the training to their groups and schools. A similar session will follow on the East Coast of Demerara;
- Teacher Training Workshop, which was launched on March third this year on the East Bank of Demerara and which has already been requested by a number of schools. This program provides teachers with skills and the capacity to develop their own mental toughness and be able to deal with emotional and psychological problems their students face. This too has been endorsed by the Ministry of Education, which has offered to collaborate and get social workers involved in its implementation.
- Train the Trainer Workshop, which was launched in collaboration with Imam Bacchus & Sons at Affiance, Essequibo, on February 25th this year. This workshop trains others to become trainers for gatekeepers and to turnkey their training to their various communities and entities with which they are associated. The demand for this program is also great and it will be taken to all regions over time, with East Berbice being the next stop.
- Employee Mental Health Workshop, which helps workers at various companies to be able to deal with stress and challenges and emotional and psychological issues. This will be launched later this month in Georgetown and then offered to businesses nationwide.
- Community Outreach, launched in 2014 and since taken to a number of communities, often in collaboration with other NGOs, Community Based Organizations and/or faith Based Organizations. Next stop is Wales, where the scope for widespread depression exists as a result of the closure of the sugar estate.
It is important to note that TCV is a fully voluntary, fully self-funded organization, which receives no grants of any kind from anywhere. Our trainers are highly qualified and experienced professionals, who, as member of The Caribbean Voice, also volunteer their times, efforts and expertise. However, training sessions are often supported by local business entities that recognize the critical need for the work of The Caribbean Voice.
It is also important to note that TCV’s work is widespread. In fact TCV is in the process of setting up regional subgroups; such groups already in exist in Regions One, Two, Three, For and Five. This structure enables concurrent planning and implementation, constrained only by time and resources.
Training has and continues to be supported by media advocacy. And so through this column, TCV takes this opportunity to provide some coping skills that build self-esteem:
- Spend time with people who like you and care about you.
- Select good role models
- Ignore (and stay away from) people who put you down or treat you badly.
- Focus on your achievements rather than on your failures.
- Prepare thoroughly for any task so that you can be sure you are ready.
- Maintain good health habits, eat well, get enough sleep.
- Don’t misuse drugs or alcohol.
- Pace yourself, take a break, learn to relax by doing simple exercises.
- Focus on who you are and what you like about yourself. Why do your friends like you?
- Do things that you enjoy or that make you feel good.
- Do things you are good at.
- Reward yourself for your successes.
- Develop your talents.
- Be your own best friend – treat yourself well and do things that are good for you.
- Make good choices for yourself, and don’t let others make your choices for you.
- Take responsibility for yourself, your choices, and your actions.
- Always do what you believe is right. Be true to yourself and your values.
- Respect other people and treat them right.
- Set goals and work to achieve them.
- Talk to someone who can get you professional help if needed or contact The Caribbean Voice.
Meanwhile TCV notes that numerous opportunities for instilling self-esteem and coping skills that have/are not been taken advantage of. Some of these include:
- A four- year Community Crime and Violence Prevention programme as the first component of the Citizen Security Strengthening Programme (CSSP) of the Ministry of Public Security, which is expected to benefit 4000 youths and adolescents. It noted that young people in ‘at risk’ communities will benefit from several training initiatives meant to improve their skill level, and livelihood, with the aim of reducing crime and violence in their communities. A major part of the project will focus on empowering young people through technical and vocational training to develop entrepreneurial skills.
- The Ministry of Social Cohesion’s Diversity Education and Inclusion Workshop Training of Trainers workshop, whereby a core team of trained personnel, will then train over 700 citizens to become social cohesion advocates.
- The Hinterland Employment and Youth Service (HEYS) Programme, which trained 99 youths and 19 facilitators from six villages in Region 10, to be able to learn several skills, which will have long-term financial benefits.
- The Diversity Education and Inclusion Regional Training Workshop involving stakeholders from faith-based organisations and women’s groups, senior secondary school students, regional officers, members of civil society and community development officers, held and being held at various locations throughout Guyana.
How about also including training modules on self-esteem, self-worth and coping skills so that these persons will be better equipped to deal with stresses and challenges? Using these kinds of training programs to incorporate self esteem and coping skills would mean that participants would become mentally stronger and more self confident as well as much more equipped to handle the stresses and strains involved in their daily lives and tasks. And this kind of piggybacking would demand very, very minimal or even no cost in some cases.
As Viktor Frankl (1905 – 1997), psychiatrist and Holocaust-survivor famously said in his book Man’s Search for Meaning, “[E]verything can be taken from a man but one thing; the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
The Caribbean Voice can be contacted via email: firstname.lastname@example.org; phone: 718-542-4454 (North America) or 644 1152, 646 4669 (Guyana). Log on to our website www.caribvoice.org or contact any of our members us via Facebook.