“Minister Broomes on ‘anti-suicide’ campaign at Linden schools” screamed the headline in a local newspaper. But then the article proceeded to wax on the minister’s talk to the students. So The Caribbean Voice checked and found out that Minister Broomes is not a psychologist or counselor or suicide prevention advocate or activist. But as a minister surely she would have been advised as to what suicide prevention entails?
In fact, TCV expected to read that the Minister has provided at least one clinically trained counselor to each school and that staff would be trained to identify suicide-warning signs so they can quickly refer at risk students to the counselors. We also expected to read that the Minister is planning workshops for teachers to strengthen them mentally and emotionally and to address their psychosocial needs.
Furthermore, we expected to read that the Minister is planning suicide prevention workshops in Linden schools, focusing on self harm in general, including stress management, self esteem, coping skills to deal with challenges, handling peer pressure, building self confidence, learning self-forgiveness, saying no to drugs and alcohol, avoiding cutting, handling bullying, including cyber bullying…
As well, we expected to read that Minister is planning to work with parents teachers association within the schools to train parents in basic prevention strategies such as emphatic communication and safe use/storage of pesticides and to provide them with easy and quick access to help, should that become necessary.
Perhaps the Minister ought to note what experts, advocates and activists in the field have to say about preventing suicide. Among the strategies suggested are:
- Strengthen economic supports
- Strengthen access and delivery of suicide care
- Create protective environments
- Promote connectedness
- Teach coping and problem-solving skills
- Identify and support people at risk
- Lessen harms and prevent future risk
In effect suicide prevention has to embrace a comprehensive approach of which talking to/lecturing people is not a recommended strategy. In fact the Guyana Government’s National Suicide Prevention Plan (NSPP) does embrace a comprehensive approach and provides related specificities for all strategies. And because TCV knows that the Minister cannot only be interested in suicide prevention in Linden, given who she is, we are certain that Honorable Minister will use the NSPP to launch a national suicide prevention campaign and that among the measures that she would soon put in place are:
- Counselors in every school, drawing from the recent graduates of the UG psychology program.
- Sensitization for all police officers and health care workers.
- Total integration of mental health care into the physical health care system.
- A program to tackle pesticide suicide, perhaps an adaptation of the Shri Lankan Hazard Prevention model that has been so highly successful in that nation.
- Speeding up the total renovation and equipping of the National Psychiatric Institution.
- Ensuring that all public hospitals have psych wards and mental health specialists including psychiatrists, psychologists, and traumatists.
- Establishing protocols for licensing of all counselors and piloting legislation to criminalize quack counseling.
- Steps to decriminalize suicide
- Making counseling easily and quickly accessible to all Guyanese regardless of their ability to pay.
- Getting the University of Guyana to embark on a comprehensive suicide survey the results of which can then be used to drive prevention nationally.
Madam Minister please know that The Caribbean Voice stands ready to join you in this effort to tackle suicide throughout our nation!