Guyana has toll free helpline to suicide prevention

A toll free suicide helpline is currently available to persons who are in need of immediate counselling. The hotline number [592] 600-7896 is one made available by one of the two local telephone companies – Digicel Guyana.
This means that persons, even if they do not have credit in their mobile devices, can have access to a counsellor who can offer them professional help. This development has been especially lauded by the National Coordinating Director of Caribbean Voice, Mr. Nazim Hussain.
Registered in New York, the Caribbean Voice is a not-for-profit Non-Governmental Organisation [NGO] involved in anti-violence activism with a special focus on suicide prevention and anti-abuse that has a major focus in Guyana.
Hussain noted that the move by Digicel to render its support to offer the toll free service is a very laudable move. “I didn’t even know that there was a toll free helpline until a recent visit to the Minister of Public Security’s office. I knew there were helpline numbers but it was brought to my attention then, that the Digicel number on the list of helpline numbers is a toll free number.
“This is something that we have been calling for, for a long time,” said Hussain.
This was required in recognition of the fact that “some people do not have money to pay for a call when they are having suicide ideations,” Hussain noted.
He added, “We have also been calling for all the helplines that are manned by the Ministry of Public Health be toll free too. The Ministry of Public Health has said that they are willing to work with us on that [and] we have requested that they use their clout to broker this with the phone companies and other people who can provide free credit.”
Other helpline numbers are [592] – 223-0001, 223-0009 and 623-4444. The toll free number [600-4444] and 623-4444 are also active Whatsapp numbers that persons in need of counselling can access.
Earlier this year Minister of Public Security, Khemraj Ramjattan, said that Government is not opposed to the introduction of a toll-free suicide helpline. But the Public Security Minister even then said that while a move in this direction would be tactical, Government was not in the best of position to independently fast-track its implementation.
Minister Ramjattan also revealed that he is willing to throw any possible support behind individuals or organisations willing to bring such an initiative to fruition.
He, however, noted that “the first step is to know who is behind such an idea because I would want to know if they have good or bad intentions. There are some people who might want it for their own profiteering purpose,” speculated Minister Ramjattan.
Ramjattan’s solicited remarks came on the heels of calls for the implementation of toll-free suicide helplines from the Caribbean Voice.
Recognising the Caribbean Voice as a credible NGO, the Public Security Minister said that he is ready and willing to lend support wherever possible. “I would support Caribbean Voice; they have done some work in Guyana but I want to see them going down on the ground doing much more work,” the Minister had noted.
Hussain disclosed that while the Caribbean Voice has not been in the business of highlighting the extent of its work, there is record to substantiate that it has been reaching people across the country and has worked in collaboration with the Public Health Ministry and other organisations too. In fact, he disclosed that Caribbean Voice is currently engaged in offering professional services to a few individuals.
Speaking on the need for toll free helplines earlier this year too, Hussain said, “It is high time that moves are made to introduce a toll free suicide helpline to the Guyanese public.”
From all indication, Digicel heard the call and responded by causing its number to be toll free.

About caribvoice

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