The Caribbean Voice launches suicide prevention vigil.

The Caribbean Voice (TVC) has partnered with the Social Cohesion Ministry to organise its third annual national anti-violence candlelight vigil to mark World Suicide Prevention Day, which is aimed at spreading awareness on suicide prevention.
There will be a month-long awareness on suicide prevention and other scheduled activities, which will culminate with the vigil on Sunday, September 9.
At the launching ceremony on Friday, National Coordinator of the Caribbean Voice, Nizam Hussain, highlighted some of the organisations partnering with The Caribbean Voice in this initiative. Those include the Women’s Progressive Organisation (WPO), the Guyana Hindu Dharmic Sabha, Charity Church of Christ, Emerging Young Leaders, the Enterprise Youth Development Group, and Golden Om Dharmic Youth.
Hussain explained that this vigil will aid in reducing the scourge of suicide and the number of cases which are often coupled with domestic violence.
Social Cohesion Minister George Norton has noted that efforts should continue to assist with ending both of these social issues in Guyana.
“I believe that observing this vigil is a great start,” he said. “We want you to not only observe the vigil, but to join forces with Caribbean Voice and other bodies that are working towards ending violence and suicide altogether,” Minister Norton said.
Norton also spoke on the report that was produced by the World Health Organisation (WHO) a few years ago, which placed Guyana in the spotlight for its high suicide rate. He said the rate of suicide has decreased significantly.
“This could have been, and it was immensely troubling, and we needed to take immediate remedy. In 2015, Guyana was one of the few countries that moved aggressively to develop a suicide prevention plan, and I’m happy to say that Guyana’s suicide rate has dropped,” Dr Norton declared.
Last year, the organisers had just under 800 participating groups at the vigil. They are looking forward to more this time around.

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Guyanese support sex offenders registry, believe unemployment can drive suicide

Guyanese overwhelmingly support the establishment of a registry of sex offenders. This was one of several findings in a poll commissioned by The Caribbean Voice and conducted in June and July. And although most Guyanese seemed unaware that attempted suicide is a criminal offence, they significantly agree that it should be decriminalized.
Other findings include significant support for mandated counseling for all persons with mental health issues who appear in courts to answer charges; all health care workers and educators be mandated to report any and all forms of abuse or suspicion of abuse and all police be trained to appropriately handle abuse and suicide cases.
Below are the stats relating to the poll:
Should government establish a registry of sex offenders?
Yes No Not Sure/No Response
90 2 8
Should attempted suicide be decriminalized?
Yes No Not Sure/No Response
74 8 18
Should all persons with mental health issues in front of the courts be mandated psychological evaluation?
Yes No Not Sure/No Response
88 4 8
Should all health care workers and educators be mandated to report any and all forms of abuse or suspicion of abuse?
Yes No Not Sure/No Response
82 6 12
Should all police be trained to handle abuse and suicide cases?
Yes No Not Sure/No Response
86 4 10
Lack of awareness that attempted suicide is a crime seems to be because the law is not enforced but survey respondents were very vehement in calling for it to be taken off the books. They also felt that the system is failing those who become suicidal and that significant efforts to prevent suicide have not been made by government. As well they believe that suicide is greater among the poorer segments of the population driven especially by alcoholism and unemployment. Thus they are calling for counseling to be provided free of charge, across the nation, as the charges would become an additional burden on victims. Many also feel that suicides and suicide victims should not be publicized since this could also compound the problem.
Unemployment indeed seems to lead to depression and suicidal mindsets, based on TCV’s interactions with many, especially young people, who have contacted us seeking help to obtain jobs. They often detail their struggles with depression and suicide ideation. While we do refer some to individuals we feel might be able to help, in almost all cases, the help never materialized, in spite of the promises made. TCV is of the view that suicide wise this a disaster waiting to happen. So we are wondering whether there is a mechanism in place that we can refer these persons to access. Perhaps the media can publicize any info relating to a referral system for these young people. Requests have come in from many different regions.
Coordinated by pollster, Dr. Vishnu Bisram, the poll had a sample of 1010 respondents (410 Indians, 304 Africans, 182 Mixed, 102 Amerindians, 12 others), which yielded a demographically representative sample of the adult population. Voters were polled randomly to make it as representative as possible with respect to varied age, class, occupational, residential and religious statuses as well as of ethnicity, educational levels and geographical diversity.
The results of the poll were analyzed at a 95 percent significance level and a statistical sampling error of plus or minus four percentage points was found. This means that in theory, in 19 cases out of 20, the results based on such a sample will differ by no more than 4 percentage points in either direction from what should have been obtained by seeking to interview the whole voting population. Sampling results based on subgroups (such as Indians or Africans have a larger potential sampling error).

Table 1: Racial Composition of Polling Sample 1010
Race Number Percent
Indian 410 41
African 304 30
Mixed 182 18
Amerind 102 10
Other* 12 1
* Includes Portuguese, Chinese and all other ethnic categories.

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Lay counselor training to grow community gatekeepers

Come next July, a thriving gatekeepers’ programme is expected to be in full swing. The initiative is one that will be implemented by The Caribbean Voice [TCV], which has been soliciting support to have the programme rolled out on a national scale.
Heeding the call for support recently was KFC [Guyana] which has handed over a sizeable sum towards the cause as part of its corporate social responsibility.

According to TCV National Coordinating Director, Mr. Nazim S. Hussain, in order to ensure that the programme is a true success, a sum of $6.4 million will have to be raised to garner the support of a highly experienced and credentialed trainer.

The trainer in question, Hussain said, will provide the needed service free of cost for one year through the non-governmental organization – SEVA International – which is based in India.

The programme will cater to the training of Lay Counsellors, who are essentially persons trained in basic mental health so that they can perform as gatekeepers within a community to proactively act on mental health issues. Among the key issues to be targeted are suicide and abuse, and it is expected that these individuals will be able to pre-empt suicide or abuse or help to bring about redress.

Moreover, the gatekeepers’ programme, Hussain explained, entails training individuals within a community to be able to use their vantage positions to detect and help address, as far as possible, those faced with the stated mental health-related challenges.

This therefore means that gatekeepers are persons who act much like first responders who target the vulnerable in communities.

Marketing Manager of KFC [Guyana], Ms. Livasti Bhooplall, in handing over the needed financial support to TCV’s Hussain, related that KFC is very proud to be contributing to the Lay Counselor Initiative, even as she encouraged corporate Guyana to donate to the cause too.

Her sentiments were echoed by Hussain, who said that it is also his hope that others within the business community will emulate the move by KFC.

“This is the first time that a company has come on board to support us like this, and we are hoping that others would do the same,” Hussain said.

Meanwhile, Bhooplall, in recognizing the importance of the venture, said that KFC was pleased to get on board, since the initiative is one that will see all 10 administration regions being able to benefit. She added that Guyana is in critical need of these types of training programmes, since the daily news is filled with domestic violence.

Among those who are likely to be identified to join the gatekeepers’ movement, Hussain said, are estate workers, teachers, policemen, business persons and even taxi drivers.

But choosing the most suitable candidates will not be a haphazard process since, according to him, an imperative approach is to reach out to human resource managers, representatives of other NGOs within the estate communities, religious organisations, among other leaders, to help identify those best suited for the programme.

“We are looking to have persons with the capacity to reach others…those who are deemed ‘people persons’ and are able to help them get the support they need,” said Hussain.

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KFC donates to The Caribbean Voice

The local Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) franchise made a monetary donation to The Caribbean Voice (TCV) on Monday which would go towards the launching of a nationwide Lay Counsellor Programme in July 2019.
The lay counsellor is trained in basic mental health so that he or she can act as gatekeeper within a community to proactively and preemptively deal with mental health issues such as suicide and abuse.
TCV needs to raise $6.4 million to facilitate a highly-experienced and credentialed trainer, whose service is offered free of cost for one year via the Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) Seva International based in India.
On behalf of the fast food franchise, Marketing Manager Livasti Bhooplall explained that KFC was very proud to be contributing to the lay counsellor initiative and she encouraged corporate Guyana to donate to the cause.
Bhooplall mentioned that many social issues that were prevalent in Guyana, such as suicide and abuse stemmed from mental health issues. The training programme will be facilitated in all 10 Administrative Regions in Guyana. The KFC Marketing Manager noted that Guyana was in critical need of these types of training programmes, since the daily news was filled with domestic violence, and she wished the team every success with this initiative.
TCV National Coordinating Coordinator Nazim Hussain noted that the donation would play a significant part in executing the Lay Counsellor Programme.

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We will continue to report allegations of rape and abuse to the media with the hope they will investigate, publicize, and liaise with police

On July 24th, Voices Against Violence (the collection of organizations and entities that spearhead the Annual National Anti-Violence Candlelight Vigil to mark World Suicide Prevention Day, to be held on September 9th this year) sent an email to media across Guyana, with a link to a Facebook post alleging rape by a Route #42 mini bus driver. It was our hope that all media would have, at least, carried an article on the allegation, if not do their own investigative reporting, since the person making the allegation was identifiable via her FB page.

As far as we are aware, only one newspaper carried a report, but it was not investigative. Now we hope the police would contact the newspaper to get the FB link and carry out an investigation, so that any possible recurrence of an incident like that alleged would not happen.

A few weeks ago we had sent another email to selected media with three FB links and supporting photos alleging gender based violence. Unfortunately none of the newspapers published any reports on any of the allegations. But aren’t these the kinds of issues that media needs to highlight, if not investigate, as part of their social responsibility? When alleged victims are too scared to go to the police shouldn’t the media be their recourse, if others choose to inform the media of the allegations?

The fact is that social media on the whole and FB in particular are dotted with allegations of rape and abuse, but often, when we are able to contact the alleged victims they refuse to talk and/or to take action. Voices Against Violence has also learned of several cases including one of a young lady allegedly raped and murdered by a businessman who then allegedly bribed the police to drop the case. We learnt about this long after the fact, but because no details were provided we could not go to the media or the police.

The Caribbean Voice has also encountered many cases with the same kind of responses. In fact we particularly recall a case whereby a woman was badly beaten by her husband because she set up an appointment with a counselor for both of them, so they could work towards resolving issues that had arisen in their relationship. The husband brutalized her because he felt she should not have done that and that he did not need counseling because there was nothing wrong with him. In fact, The Caribbean Voice has found that Guyanese on the whole are very skeptical of counseling, with some thinking that’s only for ‘mad people’ and some alleging that counselors do not hold to confidentiality. Oftentimes, when we deal with cases, they make it clear that they only want The Caribbean Voice to provide counseling, and they absolutely refuse to contact the Suicide Helpline.

This particular woman approached The Caribbean Voice for help but she refused to go to the police whom she did not trust. So, in collaboration with another NGO we persuaded her to seek medical help at the Georgetown Public Hospital where she was kept for treatment. It was our hope that once she was treated and discharged we would still be able to persuade her to go to the police. Sadly she took self-discharge from the hospital without our knowledge and took her life.

There can be no doubt that lack of trust in the police is a huge issue in Guyana and something that the police top brass and the Minister of Public Security need to urgently address, not in a piecemeal ad hoc manner but via an ongoing, concerted campaign.

However, the media can play a significant role in helping victims to get justice and counseling as well as encourage the general public to become reporters by responding to all reports sent to them. Social responsibility aside, there are the issues of humanity and conscience, of helping to drive social change, of the watchdog role encompassing social issues and of reportage that concretely serves the population.

So both Voices Against Violence and The Caribbean Voice will continue to report allegations of rape and abuse to the media with the hope that media will investigate, publicize, and liaise with police to bring perpetrators to trial. Of course we are aware that there may always be allegations that may be fake but the media and the police should be able to ferret out those.

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Treat suicide as the mental illness it is – TCV Director

“Having suicidal thoughts does not make an individual a lunatic.”
This is the informed assertion of National Coordinating Director of The Caribbean Voice [TCV], Mr. Nazim S. Hussain. In fact, Hussain has made it clear that suicide is a mental health issue and therefore requires medical attention in much the way other health issues do.
It is for this reason that Hussain is passionately continuing his campaign, through TCV, to hopefully force policymakers to decriminalize attempted suicide.
“Now people don’t say they commit cancer or commit diabetes if someone dies from these diseases. Why are we saying commit suicide if you die from suicide? Suicide is an ailment and it should not be seen as illegal for someone to have those thoughts…It is an illness not a crime,” Hussain posited.
TCV has been unyielding in its advocacy for all persons who would have attempted suicide to be subjected to mandatory mental health counselling sessions. The counselling process, according to Hussain, must go hand in hand with decriminalising of the act.
“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, since it is in fact a cry for help resulting from a mental health breakdown.
Moreover, the TCV National Coordinating Director went on to share that “it is a myth that you cannot stop someone from committing suicide. It can be stopped! It can be prevented with the right kind of application,” he insisted.
He revealed that when suicide was presented as a crime many years ago, it was due to the fact that the psychologists and psychoanalysts of that era did not understand the structure of the human mind and the fact such thoughts constituted mental illness.
For this very reason, he related that those with thoughts of suicide who opted to carry out the act were reduced to criminals. Criminalizing attempted suicide was meant to serve as a deterrent.
But, according to Hussain, “it came out afterwards that suicide is hinged on mental health illness and as a consequence, like any other physical illnesses, it needs to be treated and it can be prevented.”
However, Hussain considered that the challenge that persons with suicide ideations face is that they are at times discriminated against when they seek medical attention. For this reason, Hussain said, “some of them do not have the mindset to easily go and seek counseling, because people might say that they are mad, but that is a myth, and we are working to address…that mental illness is not equivalent to being a lunatic”.
Hussain noted that there are many forms of mental illnesses.
“Even bad sleeping patterns are a mental illness or bad eating patterns are also forms of mental illnesses. Remember everything about the body and its actions are from the brain…so the brain edits our actions,” Hussain explained.
Although TCV has been working tirelessly to educate the public that suicide can be prevented, Hussain highlighted that government as well as several other non-governmental organizations [NGOs] have been making similar strides.
“I applaud the government and several other NGOs for their work in trying to create greater awareness too,” said Hussain, who is however convinced that “much more attention must be paid to mental illness issues and we must start the suicide awareness from the level of the schools”.
Meanwhile, Hussain has also been advocating for keen attention to be paid to family values. Taking such a tactical approach, he noted, could help to uncover the root cause of many societal issues with the view of addressing them.
“There are some cases of domestic violence that are triggered by alcohol abuse. For example, there is a party and everybody is imbibing, then the party ends and mommy and daddy ‘buse’ and fight and cuss up. That is an ideation that the children are learning from an early age and that is a Guyanese culture,” Hussain said. He added, “When men abuse their wives, the boys [sons] see it and they do it too and the girls [daughters] see their mother endure it and they think they have to endure it too, but that should not be the case.”

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More effort being plugged into ‘suicide first aid’

Through recent strategic workshops spearheaded by The Caribbean Voice [TCV], a number of key persons are now able to employ a more informed approach when dealing with persons with suicide ideation.
The workshops were designed, among other things, to raise awareness on suicide first aid. Suicide first aid refers to the tactics employed to help dissuade an individual from opting to commit suicide. But according to TCV National Coordinating Director, Mr. Nazim S. Hussain, “one of my concerns is that many people do not understand suicide first aid.”
Hussain noted that the response of many untrained persons to an individual contemplating suicide is that they shouldn’t worry about the problems that they have since things are likely to get better.
“If it is a money problem, they might say, ‘man don’t fight up, you’re going to get money soon’. But these are things that they have already thought of; they want solutions. They don’t want to hear what will work soon. A person in this state needs to see evidence of what you are presenting to them that things will work out,” Hussain explained.
He underscored that a primary element of suicide first aid is emphatic communication. “Don’t tell people that things are going to work out if you don’t have evidence of that. What we need to do is embrace and inculcate emphatic communication,” insisted Hussain.
Employing emphatic communication, he asserted, suggests that an individual lending support avoids making empty suggestions and is willing to listen to the troubled person’s problems without being judgmental, and if possible find a solution to their problem.
But if that person lending support is unable to derive a plausible solution, Hussain shared that he or she should be able retain the attention of that person until the service of a professional is sought.
Doing something as simple as “lending a listening ear” is of paramount importance to a person with suicide ideations, since, according to Hussain, “that person does not really want to die…”
“The mere fact that that person sought you out means that they need help… You don’t need to establish guilt, you want to build trust, you want to build confidence, you want to have them talking as long as possible to you until you can contact someone to help them further.
“That is not betraying their trust but finding a way to help them when you can’t.”
He continued, “All Guyanese should be able to have the simplest knowledge of how to apply suicide first aid…”
Getting additional help for a person contemplating suicide could be as simple as calling one of the Suicide Prevention Helpline numbers. In addition to a toll free number offered by Digicel, [600-4444], persons can also call the other helpline numbers: 223-0001, 223-0009 and 623-4444. Both mobile numbers [600-4444 [Digicel] and 623-4444 [GTT]] are also Whatsapp enabled for assistance, Hussain said.
The participants of the recent workshops were exposed to forgoing information and are now in a better position to help with the ongoing fight to help prevent the incidence of suicide in the society. The workshops, which took on the form of Addiction/Mental Health/Anti-Suicide sessions, were held earlier this month. Among the key facilitators was Canada based Guyanese, Mr. Shirvington Hannays, who is a Certified Addiction Counsellor and Behavioural Change Coach. The first in the series of workshops was held in the boardroom of the Childcare and Protection Agency and saw the attendance of some 28 individuals including: Ministry of Social Protection officials, representatives from the Guyana Prison Service, among others.
Another workshop on the Essequibo Coast was held in the boardroom of the Suddie Hospital. It saw the attendance of some 40 individuals including seven doctors and other public health workers others.
There was yet another workshop in Berbice targeting young cricketers at the Fort Wellington Secondary School.

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