Chief Justice calls for helplines to be featured in suicide stories


Given the high prevalence of suicide and other social ills in Guyana, acting Chief Justice, Roxanne George on Friday, during a workshop hosted for the media, underscored the need for helplines to be placed at the end of such reports to proffer assistance from Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs).
“Might I suggest that the Guyana Press Association (GPA) take the initiative, if it has not done so already, to partner with our leading NGO’s on gender based violence so as to set guidelines for Guyana and get the permission to place helpline information at the end of each story,” the Chief Justice stated.
Justice George added that if such a method has been practiced before, then it needs to be considered for revision and/or recommitment, on the part of the media, to follow such guidelines.
Her call comes at a time when Guyana has been listed among the countries with the highest suicide rates in the world. But Clinical Psychologist attached to the Public Health Ministry, Balogun Osunbiyi recently told Guyana Times that these eyebrow-raising figures have decreased significantly.
In 2012, according to Osunbiyi, suicide death rates in Guyana stood at 44.2 per cent. However, over the years, this high percentage has decreased with 2016 figures standing at 29 per cent and 24.67 per cent in 2017. Although the figures for 2018 have not been officially released, this newspaper was told that suicide-related deaths were down by at least 50 per cent.
While these numbers may be good for the country, The Caribbean Voice had a different view on the matter.
In fact, the Managing Director of the agency, Bibi Ahamad, believes that the numbers have not significantly decreased and that the Health Ministry might be trying to paint that picture.
She said that the numbers suggested that the figures may have been reduced, but many suicidal attempts are smeared when victims are rushed to the hospital and are treated.
Law amendment
When it comes to the safety and protection of domestic violence victims, the local Judiciary is very strict and is, in fact, seeking to up its game in this regard.
Already, media personnel can be fined $2 million for identifying complainants and witnesses in sexual offense cases.
As explained by the Chief Justice, such cases are “deeply personal” and “traumatic” for not only victims, but their children and other relatives, and reporting in a reckless manner can leave lifelong scars and labels on these persons. As such, she explained the need for an amendment to the law to allow for in-camera hearings of domestic violence cases, in addition to sexual offenses.
She said, “…we may have to seek amendment to the law to provide for in-camera hearings of criminal cases that are domestic violence related, like the provisions in place for sexual offenses cases.” (Davina Ramdass)

About caribvoice

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