Counselling must be mandatory for attempted suicide victims – Caribbean Voice Director

Although a situation may seem daunting and there may appear to be no way out, suicide should never be seen as a way out.
“Suicide is preventable; it is not an option…it is totally preventable,” insists National Coordinating Director of the Caribbean Voice, Mr. Nazim S. Hussain. In fact, he emphasises that the main focus of Caribbean Voice, a not-for-profit Non Governmental Organisation [NGO] headquartered in New York, is to help Guyanese understand not only that suicide is not an option, but that it is a mental health issue that can be treated much like several other illnesses.
“Suicide can be cured and for those who are not cured, it can be controlled,” said Hussain, even as he revealed that although there are some people with regular suicide ideations and others who might have thought about it only once, they all can access available treatment.
In order to curb suicide ideations, Hussain noted that persons must be able to accept that suicide is a mental health problem. He shared his conviction that mental health screening should be a necessity for all persons employed in sensitive areas, such as those who are required to bear arms.
“We have been saying this for a long time…such persons and those who deal with chemicals should be screened regularly,” said Hussain. He however assured that neither he nor Caribbean Voice can officially pronounce on such a need.
But Hussain asserted that the Caribbean Voice has been unyielding and will continue to advocate for all persons who would have attempted suicide to be subjected to mandatory mental health counselling sessions. The counselling process, according to Hussain, will have to go hand in hand with efforts at decriminalising suicide.
Currently, suicide is seen as a criminal act, but the Caribbean Voice has been consistently calling for it to be decriminalised. “This is necessary, because if you attempt suicide and you did not succeed, you will not receive the mental health counselling that you require,” said Hussain, as he insisted that attempted suicide should no longer be viewed as a criminal act, as it is in fact a cry for help resulting from a mental health breakdown.
However, Hussain, when asked if a person found guilty of committing a homicide and then attempts to commit suicide but fails, should be subjected to merely counselling, replied, “You should be penalised based on the statues of Guyana – the criminal law for committing a murder.” He noted that the onus is on legislators to discuss and decide whether there is need for the re-tweaking of existing laws governing such matters.
Even as the way forward is decided upon, Hussain is unwavering in his support for counselling as an immediate priority for persons who attempt suicide, even if they are the perpetrators of a homicide.
“Regardless of what is decided, the Caribbean Voice will continue to advocate for immediate requisite counselling for such persons. This is important, because a person without needed counselling could continue to do harm…they could harm themselves and other persons if they are on bail, or harm fellow prisoners if they are sentenced. This is why we are saying there must be mandatory counselling.”
But counselling shouldn’t merely be an option, Hussain asserted. He is of the conviction that there should be penalties if mandatory counselling sessions are missed. “This is an area for the Government, they have to decide what the penalties are, because they are the people who govern the operation of the Mental Health Unit,” Hussain added.
As a suicide and violence prevention advocacy organisation, the Caribbean Voice, according to Hussain, has dealt with more than 300 successful counselling cases, both locally and internationally. A total of four counselling cases are also currently engaging the attention of the organisation.
In order to further expand its reach, Hussain said that “we are always willing to either invite collaborations or collaborate with other organisations…we are always willing to collaborate with [like-minded] organisations like the Ministry of Public Health…‘The more the merrier’ is a slogan that is attracting motivation to collaborate,” he noted.

About caribvoice

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