Basket of measures needed for suicide prevention


The Caribbean Voice (www.caribvoice.org), a US and Guyana registered volunteer-driven, not for profit NGO focused on suicide and all forms of abuse prevention in Guyana, Trinidad & Tobago, Barbados, Jamaica and St Vincent & the Grenadines (in partnership with sister NGO ‘Say Enough is Enough Support Group) and the Caribbean Diaspora in North America.

The Caribbean Voice agrees with Dr Donovan Thomas, founder of the Jamaican NGO, Choose Life International, that entertainers should shy away from using graphic imagery to relay their message of ‘choose life’. And indeed, there are many ‘graphic imagery’ free messages already in the public domain.

One such is ‘Love Your Life’ by reggae and dancehall singer, Gmac, a Jamaican based spokesperson for The Caribbean Voice. This, and several other suicide prevention songs by various other spokespersons of The Caribbean Voice (TCV) can be found on our youtube channel – this channel can also be accessed by logging onto our website – We urge broadcast media in the Caribbean to give airtime to these songs as part of their social responsibility.

As well, while it’s very encouraging that top-notch entertainers are motivated to get involved in suicide prevention, we urge that the messages in their songs focus on evidence-based prevention strategies that have been proven to work. We also urge more entertainers to get involved and, as well, to focus on abuse and other forms of violence, not only through their music but also through other endeavors such as promos for the broadcast media, media interviews, spokespersons for NGOs involved in prevention activism, and directly speaking to their audience at concerts and other appearances.

The reality is that suicide is inextricably linked to other forms of violence and suicide prevention cannot be effective without addressing other forms of violence.

Globally and in the Caribbean, suicide continues to be a growing social problem. This is why we were saddened by the fact that most Caribbean governments had no official representative at the Third Caribbean Suicide Symposium organized in May in Trinidad and Tobago by the International Association for Suicide Prevention or that the governments did not find it possible to observe World Suicide Prevention Day (September 10) this year, in a manner that would have brought awareness across the Caribbean.

The International Association for Suicide Prevention designated an entire month for prevention and awareness-building activities this year – from September 10 to World Mental Health Day, October 10. During this period, candlelight vigils were held across Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, St Vincent and the Grenadines, the US and Canada.

Please check our Facebook page for a photo collage of this year’s vigils.

It is the hope of The Caribbean Voice, that all Caribbean nations would have vigils for next year’s World Suicide Prevention Day. Of course, vigils do not prevent suicide, but they do raise awareness, which is the first – necessary step – towards catalyzing prevention activism.

Among the suicide prevention basket of measures that must be focused on, is gatekeepers’ training. The Caribbean Voice will be collaborating with other stakeholders to launch such training in Guyana, and Trinidad and Tobago next year and we would be exploring the possibilities of doing so in other Caribbean nations going forward. Gatekeepers in every community would not only be able to easily identify suicide warning signs, but they will also know what steps to take to get urgent help for those identified as suicidal or depressed.

Well-trained gatekeepers can then pass on their training to others so there will always be gatekeepers present in every community. And by the way, gatekeepers can also be trained to begin the process to tackle all forms of abuse, gender-based, child, sexual, alcohol and drugs.

Finally, we must point out the critical role of the media in tackling suicide, abuse and other forms of violence. This can be done in several ways including constant publishing and/or broadcasting of coping information, prevention strategies and awareness messages; articles, letters, and interviews that include debunking myths and misinformation about suicide.

The alternative is to provide coping information, prevention strategies and cases of individuals who have overcome suicidal thoughts and suicide ideation; fostering of suicide appropriate language; use of media guidelines for reporting on suicide and constant publishing of phone numbers and other contact information for those needing help, or those seeking help for others and employing suicide appropriate language.

For example, one does not commit suicide as the word commit has criminal implications. Instead one dies by suicide, which, like cancer or any other debilitating disease, is also a killer and in some Caribbean nations, also a public health crisis.

Need help!

If you need help for a suicidal person or an abused victim please reach out to any related hotlines where you live, any NGOs offering such help or any ministry of health or social protection – for contact info please check here: http://caribvoice.org/resources.html

The Caribbean Voice can be reached via email at caribvoice@aol.com or what’s app number 646-461-0574.

You can also reach out on Facebook to Annan Boodram (North America), Bibi Ahamad (Guyana) Tynika James (Trinidad & Tobago), Kissandra Fox (Barbados).

About caribvoice

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