Suicide Prevention is Wholistic


In response to our invitation to become part of the solution to social pathologies such as alcoholism, suicide, rape, drug use, child abuse, domestic violence and the like, Mr Nowrang Persaud stated, “While I unconditionally applaud all efforts to minimize the negative fallout from alcoholism, suicide, domestic and other forms of violence, I firmly believe that the chances of success in remedial or corrective actions are greater, if we work at the grass-roots level where we can more effectively ‒ as indeed I have been trying to do for the longest while ‒ help to minimize the incidence and the problems”.
The Caribbean Voice (TCV) could not agree more. In fact, TCV conducts a monthly outreach to various communities in Guyana (two have been done so far in July – St. Cuthbert’s Mission and Mora Point, Mahaicony) as well as monthly self-esteem workshops for youth and students. TCV is also aware of the work done by the many NGOs on the ground, in communities, having brought over 70 of these NGOs together for the only ever National Stakeholders’ Conference on Suicide and Related Issues, last August at the Cara Lodge – one of our many, many partners.
Even though TCV is manned by unpaid volunteers, who also work 9 to 5 to put food on the table and take care of families, and even though our only funding come from our own pockets and the support of friends and well-wishers, our approach has been wholistic. Thus, in addition to the community outreaches and workshop, we are engaged in regular media advocacy to disseminate information to combat myths and misinformation on the one hand and bring awareness on the other. Additionally we, (along with others) are also engaged in ongoing lobbying that has seen the launch of the suicide hotline last year and a promise made by the Minister of Education to have counselors placed in schools. We continue to lobby for the latter as well as measures to tackle pesticide suicide (citing the Shri Lankan Model as an exemplar), integration of mental health care within the existing physical care system (as advocated by the World Health Organization) relaunch of the Gatekeepers’ Program (which would directly impact communities), giving more teeth to the Sexual Offences Act, sensitivity training for police and other government personnel, and so on. To this end we have also held meetings with many policy shapers and decision makers and are seeking to have further meetings. Also, currently we have two online petitions calling for the establishment of a registry of sex offenders and raising the age of consent to 18 years. We hope to present the signatures for both petitions to the President, some time next year.
It is within the wholistic context that the Voices Against Violence Candle Light Vigil on September 10 is located. At the minimum, the vigil will bring communities together to focus on anti-violence and hopefully lay the groundwork for these communities to continue to act together in combating all forms of violence, while agitating for resources and supports from various levels of government as well as facilitating community/NGO collaboration. Additionally, in collaboration with partners and other stakeholders, TCV engages in pro-bono counseling and counseling support, with respect to the range of issues – suicide, child abuse, domestic violence, rape, alcoholism, drug use, incest.
Finally, considering that Mr. Persaud claims to be engaged in social activism at the grass roots level and given that we strongly believe in and foster the collaborative approach – conference last August, workshops and outreaches in collaboration with NGOs such as GIVE Foundation, Orchid Foundation, Save Abee Foundation, Monique’s Helping Hands, CADVA, NJASM Humanitarian Mission, Nirvana Humanitarian Foundation, Citizens Against Rape, and others, a dozen NGOs already partnering in the vigil with more to come on board, as well as a number of individual social activists – we again extend an invitation to Mr. Persaud, to become a partner in this effort as a first step to joining the collaborative and wholistic approach, which is not only highly cost effective but gets more done every time and with greater and more enduring impact. Given his expertise and experiences, Mr Persaud should be very much aware of the many advantages of a collaborative, concerted, wholistic approach to problem solving.

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Bribery Has Become The Norm


A young man, whose truck does almost daily trips from the Corentyne to Georgetown, was stopped by a policeman on the approaches to the Berbice River bridge, and cited for having a rider in the cab without a seat belt – there were three riders there but only two wore seat belts. So he had to bribe – $5,000 each on days one, two and three. On the fourth day, he handed his cell phone to one of the riders and told him to hold the phone so it was visible to young policeman. Then he went up to the policeman and said, “You see that cell phone? I have pictures of you receiving money from me for the past three days. If you ever stop this truck again I will send those photos to newspapers and to your superiors.” That particular policeman never again stopped his truck again but was seen stopping other vehicles along the same stretch of road.
A drunk businessman was stopped by a policeman, who demanded his license and registration, and then told him, “Come to the station tomorrow and collect your documents.” The next day, upon the businessman’s arrival at the police station, a sum of $20,000 was demanded of him. After forking over the money he was given his documents and sent home.
Indeed bribery is the norm in Guyana. Yet the various audits commissioned by the current government focused significantly on corruption, real or perceived, with little mention of bribery, which has become embedded in every facet of life in Guyana. This writer has listened to narration of percentages built into contracts, of greasing hands to prevent the royal run around at every level of the bureaucracy, of drivers on the road preferring to give a ‘lil’ piece to the police rather than facing the hassle of going to court and losing much more in terms of earnings, of bribes speeding up every process from getting drivers license to obtaining copies of birth and death certificates…
The fact that the current government claimed that raising salaries of ministers was a move aimed at preventing bribery in an indication that the David Granger administration is fully aware of the pervasive nature of bribery in Guyana. So if raising salaries is the way to go then should not salaries be raised across the board? The fact, however, is that in Guyana bribes are often offered even before being asked for. When this is not done, a system of well-known, non-verbal cues are displayed to get the message across. This issue is compounded by the fact that Diaspora Guyanese, who do not want to be bothered by the hassle, will willingly shell out bribes for whatever.
In effect stamping out bribery is not about raising salaries, but rather about changing norms/behavior and any such impacting mechanism must be aimed at the entire equation – the bribe giver plus the bribe taker. Such a mechanism must also be institutionalized so it does not operate at the whims and fancies of anyone. It must be consistently applied and supported by the legal and other systems of consequences. So perhaps, since it’s the season of commission of inquiries (COI), how about one on bribery that would take evidence, foster consultations and then craft the desired mechanism? In the meanwhile a start can be made by the Police Complaints Authority, and other like minded institutions, ensuring that every allegation of bribery made is investigated in a timely manner and where necessary appropriate action taken.

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Suicide is not about unhappy people


According to Guyana’s President, David Granger, unhappy people commit suicide. The President has publicly stated this on a number of occasions, seemingly giving the impression that this explains everything: one is unhappy, thus, one commits suicide. Had this really been the case then a majority of the world’s population would have been committing suicide. The reality, however, is that this is a simplistic, perhaps even reductionist perspective, about a complex, multi faceted issue, and one would really hope that given his reputation as a scholar and researcher, President Granger, would not pronounce in such a manner on an issue that is nearing epidemic proportions in Guyana.
Yes indeed, people may be unhappy leading up to the act of finality but it is not the happiness in itself that leads to suicide; rather it is the factor or combination of factors that create the unhappiness and the agonizing pain – physical, psychological, emotional – that drives suicide.
Regarding research that the President has also called for, a number of times, The Caribbean Voice is of the view that additional research is really not a priority as factors that drive suicide have already been documented by various researchers and studies. Essentially these are abusive and dysfunctional relationships; teenage affairs and pregnancy; rape and incest; an inability to deal with problems and challenges (lack of coping skills) and/or unbearable pain – physical or emotional – which generally give rise to awful agony and depression and feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, powerlessness and loneliness.
In the context of Guyana also, suicide has become normative, to a certain extent, and thus is not only seen as a solution to life’s challenges but also as just another choice instead of a last, desperate option. Furthermore, suicidal mindsets are prone to copycatting, a practice referred to as the Werther Effect and catalyzed by alcoholism; lack of empathetic communication and low levels of self-acceptance and/or feelings of inadequacy.
The President has also hit upon the approaches to addressing suicide, all of which have been in the public domain for quite a while now. So yes a collaborative approach involving all stakeholders nationally is an ideal but in this respect we must point out that the prevailing overwhelming focus on Georgetown negates the national collaborative approach. There is critical need to reach into communities and rural areas throughout Guyana, in order to include them in any suicide prevention campaign. Secondly, the approach must be multilayered and encompassing, so as to address all the factors. At the crux of this campaign should be a priority on an integrated health care system as advocated by the World Health Organization, with basic mental health training provided to all health care workers and other stakeholders; especially given that for many, depression precedes the act of suicide and also because individuals dealing with mental and physical health issues often end up committing suicide. Additional measures, some of which have already been promised, must include:
➢ placement of counselors in schools, which was supposed to have started since February;
➢ introduction of the Health and Family Program in schools, especially focusing on social and empowerment issues including self esteem, self-forgiveness and self acceptance;
➢ bringing back the Gatekeepers Program, hand in hand with a ‘Train The Trainers’ Program so that every community can have eyes and ears that will act proactively to tackle suicide prevention and related issues;
➢ establishment of a support network to ease the effects of poverty, unemployment and under employment, and that must include skills training for the young in a concerted and holistic manner rather than randomly and selectively;
➢ legal enforcement of laws (to include raising the age of consent to 18 and establishing a registry of sex offenders) to address abuse, especially partner and sexual abuse and mechanisms in place to help victims of abuse deal with the trauma and other effects of their abuse;
➢ putting in place measures to address pesticide suicide – the Shri Lanka Model or something similar;
➢ an ongoing campaign to develop self esteem and coping skills;
➢ an ongoing education campaign to counter myths and misinformation and arm citizens with facts, information and suicide prevention strategies;
➢ measures in place, supported by legal enforcement, to curb alcoholism and drug use.
The bottom line is that neither is there need to reinvent the wheel or to expend huge sums of money. A genuine collaborative approach, with inclusive planning, coordination, mapping and oversight, where volunteerism is a key facet, and entities at all levels can be incorporated, will make it not that difficult to implement these measures and maintain a national focus with respect to suicide prevention. The Caribbean Voice stands ready to lend its humble efforts to such an endeavor.

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Voices Against Violence – National Anti-Violence Vigil


“Voices Against Violence” is an attempt to get communities across Guyana involved in anti-violence activism, while fostering the concept of communal action for community well being. This candle light vigil, set for World Suicide Prevention Day, September 10, 2016, is an initiative that is inexpensive and easy to organize – each participant simply needs a candle or can even use a cell phone – and that brings communities together. Thus vigils can be organized by religious institutions, local businesses, sports and youth clubs, political party groups…just about any entity or set of individuals including schools. Where possible two or more groups can collaborate. Each vigil can select routes around the community, end at a central point or any other selected place where the participants can be accommodated and hold a rally whereby preselected individuals from within or without the community can speak on the theme of anti-violence and, if desired, inter faith prayers can be conducted. During the walk about anti-violence slogans can be chanted.
For the purposes of this vigil all of the following are considered acts of violence either against self or others: trafficking, suicide, drug and alcohol addiction, domestic and child abuse, rape, incest, teenage pregnancy, road carnage, dysfunctional relationships, neglect of the elderly, abuse of the mentally and physically challenged. Besides, relationship violence and its dysfunctional socialization spawn, which are more and more looming as issues of critical urgency, can and do shape personalities that easily gravitate towards crime and attending violence. Thus, violence should be addressed holistically and when communities come together they can begin to become more caring and build more togetherness while getting their feet wet in the practice of mindfulness. In effect, anti-violence must become everybody’s business and immediately so! The candle light vigil, held in communities throughout the nation, is a step in this direction.
At the end of the day, Guyana is small enough, both in terms of demographics and inhabited landscape, for this vigil to be eminently doable, especially given that most of what needs to be harnessed is already in place. In fact, Guyana’s history teaches that politics, race, religion are never obstacles in the face of people’s willpower and resolve. Besides, the vigil will foster community collaboration, focus on saving lives and preventing harm, and foster the process of societal transformation.
Currently The Caribbean Voice, Golden Om Dharmic Youth, Save Abee Foundation, Orchid Foundation, Anna Catherina Islamic Complex, NJASM, Art of Living (Guyana), Nirvana Humanirarian Foundation, Imagine Nation Foundation and GIVE Foundation, are the organizations coordinating this vigil. But as the days go by we hope to have other NGOs involved, as well as the media and government agencies and ministries. Also we appeal to local and community leaders, businessmen and other influentials as well as community organizations, including religious institutions and sports club, to please help bring off this activity by ensuring that a vigil is organized in every community, collaboratively where possible. If anyone can spearhead a vigil, or knows of an individual or entity, who can be instrumental in organizing vigils please touch base with us.
So that we can map all vigils, provide any necessary assistance, including publicity and ensure that all vigils are acknowledged and lauded, The Caribbean Voice is requesting that all vigil organizers/potential organizers do contact us ASAP. In Guyana call Bibi at 621-6111 or 223-2637, Pandit Deodat at 627-4432 or Chandanie at 697-9968. In North America call Anna at 646-461-0574, Ty at 646-589-3135 or Sham at 954-778-3222. Send email to bibiahamad1@hotmail.com, keshni.rooplall@yahoo.com, deodatpersaud25@yahoo.com or caribvoice@aol.com. IM Deodat Persaud, Chandanie Rooplall, Bibi Ahamad, Ty Talbot or Annan Boodram on Facebook.

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TCV Launches Community Outreach and Students’ Self Esteem Workshops


In its continuing efforts at suicide prevention, The Caribbean Voice launched its community outreach and students’ self esteem workshop in Demerara in April.
The community outreach is geared towards reaching out to communities from where suicide emanates and within which suicide potential is potent and investing in sessions that enable such communities to voice their fears, concerns, experiences and suggestions. Additionally, the outreach provides the communities with strategies and information that will help them to be proactive first responders for their respective communities.
Held at Parfaite Harmonie on April 8th, 2016, in collaboration with lead organizer, Orchid Foundation, along with GIVE Foundation, the inaugural community outreach focused on self-esteem, suicide awareness and prevention and related issues, especially teenage pregnancy. Presenters included Bibi Ahamad, Chandanie Rooplall and Rayon Mantoos of TCV, Dr. Mark and Ms. Indra Constantine of Orchid Foundation and Daniel Ali of GIVE Foundation.
According to Dr. Constantine, “We From the Orchid Foundation found it an extreme delight to have Partnered with CaribeanVoice in the hosting of a Community Awareness outreach on Suicide Awareness and Prevention. The session was very well attended with some 45 people from the community of Parfaite Harmonie and its environs in attendance. It is my hope that we would be able to, in the future, partner again for such programs in other communities, as we together seek to inform and educate the Guyanese populace on these social issues.”
Daniel Ali of GIVE Foundation, added, “Overall I think the audience was well informed. They got to know about the suicide hotline , the reason(s) why the Caribbean Voice is pleading with the Government for the age of consent to be raised from 16 to 18 , and also they got an to opportunity to better understand the dilemma in today’s society regarding suicide and depression. The audience received leaflets with the suicide hotline numbers and words of encouragement to build their ‘self esteem’. In addition they got brochures revealing information about suicide, prepared by the Give Foundation.”
The occasion was also used to launch TCV two petitions, calling on H.E. President David Granger and his government to establish a registry of sex offenders and raise the age of consent to 18 years. Attendees also signed and pocketed the “ME” pledge developed by The Caribbean Voice and lunched during a press conference at Cara Hotel on February 9th. The pledge encourages self-esteem awareness and provides the suicide hotlines to signers. This pledge has already been widely distributed, including to a number of schools in Berbice and Demerara.
The self-esteem workshop is a follow up to similar workshops held last year in high schools in Berbice, by the New Jersey Humanitarian Mission (NJASM), in collaboration with Peace Corp and the Ministry of Education. It provides students with information and strategies to build self-esteem, develop self confidence and practice self forgiveness. The occasion is also used to interact with students to solicit first hand information and views about suicide and general mental health issues, drawn from their experiences and experiences from their schools and communities.
Held at Covent Garden Secondary School on April 28th, in collaboration with lead organizer, GIVE Foundation, along with POTS, GRPA and the US Ambassador Youth Program, the self-esteem workshop was combined with another community outreach. Based on feedback and information gathered, GIVE Foundation, The Caribbean Voice and other stakeholders will return to the same venue for a follow up. Also in the coming months this workshop hopefully would be taken to secondary schools and youth entities throughout Guyana, again in partnerships with locally based groups and other stakeholders.
It must be noted that both in Berbice as well as at the workshop at Covent Garden Secondary, it was learnt that many young people suffer from depression and suicide ideation as well as sexual and physical abuse, which are often hidden via threats and appeal to family ‘honor’.
Meanwhile, The Caribbean Voice extends an open invitation to community based organizations, faith based organizations, educational institutions and other NGOs and locally based entities to contact us to organize outreaches and self esteem workshops in communities and schools across Guyana. Call Bibi at 621-6111 or 223-2637, Pandit Deodat at 627-4432, Chandanie at 697-9968 or email bibiahamad1@hotmail.com or caribvoice@aol.com or caribbeanvoice101@gmail.com.

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Suicide and the Young


By now the general consensus globally is that suicide prevention is a holistic endeavor and that any missing link in the chain will certainly significantly impede efforts to save lives. Within this context the work done in schools and, among the 15-25 age group, must be supplemented so that the endeavors reach every school, at least high schools and youth entity.
Thus The Caribbean Voice (TCV) urges the Ministry of Education, in collaboration with other stakeholders, to follow the lead of NJASM and organize a nationwide campaign to reach remaining schools with the workshop on self esteem, self acceptance, self forgiveness and dealing with stressors. Feedback from workshops held by NJASM and TCV (in collaboration with our partners, especially GIVE Foundation), have been offered disturbing feedback, as across the board we have learnt that young people suffer from sexual abuse and to a lesser extent physical abuse and, as well, many have suffered/suffer from depression while some have even been suicidal. Also, drugs and alcohol are creeping into the school system. No wonder the 15 to 25 age group displays the highest suicide rate. This trend makes it urgently critical for guidance counselors to be posted to schools as soon as possible. So once again we call on the Minister of Education, Dr. Rupert Roopnarine, to fulfill his promise months ago to effect this measure.
Also we strongly suggest that the mentoring program launched by students of Queens College, whereby senior students take junior students under their wings and mentor them, be implemented in all high schools. Furthermore, we note also that North Ruimveldt Secondary has taken the lead in suicide prevention awareness activities and we strongly urge other high schools to follow suit. Finally, we urge mass based and community based organizations, especially churches/mosques/mandirs, trade unions, political parties and Parent-Teachers Associations to organize forums on empathetic communication, self empowerment, dealing with stress and developing coping skills. The fact is that, these youngsters spend more time at home than at school so it is critical to ensure that home environment is also addressed so that school supports home and vice versa.
In fact, a number of calls for parenting sessions to help tackle suicide have been made over the last year or so and repeated at the various community outreaches held by various stakeholders, at which The Caribbean Voice has participated. This is an absolute necessity, not only because suicide affects families, but also because families are in the best position to identify warning signs and seek help for at risk members. But it is also necessary because lack of empathetic communication, especially as it relates to parents and teenagers, is quite clearly a huge factor in suicide. Contrary to what some have expressed, the issue is not that parents do not love their children, but rather that parents do not have the requisite skills to deal with family conflicts and problems in general. In fact, far too many parents fall back on the socialization process that informed their childhood and growing up years as well as prevailing misinformation and myths. Besides, lack of parenting skills also impact violence, especially among the youth, as well as ethics and morality.
Given this reality, we urge parents to always be alert to what’s happening in the lives of their teenagers and especially to be aware of any problems the teenagers face. Parents should always find out how their teenagers are doing and if anything’s bothering them. And in addressing any problems parents must choose their words very carefully since words can and often do take on lives of their own. Regardless of what the issues are parents must let their teenagers know that they are loved and that they can always depend on help and support of their parents.
The lives of children are more important than anything else and whatever the issue, it must be dealt with in an atmosphere of care, concern, understanding and forgiveness. Thus parents must not use language that would alienate their teenagers, make them feel unloved and unwanted, make them act in anger and/or haste or make them feel, alone and lonely. And while parents can and must draw on their own experiences, as teenagers to better understand their own teens, they should not impose their views about how things should be on their teenagers since the issues parents faced when they were growing up and the environment of that time are not quite the same as what exists today. Most importantly, parents need to understand any pain and agony their children suffer and let them know that with their parents’ love, care and help things will get better. As a youth leader in the The Caribbean Voice, Rayon Mantoos, puts it, parents have to work towards the following:
➢ Cutting down, if not eliminating nagging and lecturing which generally cause children to stop listening to what is being said and to become resentful as well. Instead keep conversations brief, don’t repeat things too often and if necessary, develop a set of consequences with children so they take ownership for their behavior and actions and embrace the consequenecs;
➢ Desist from interrupting when their children are expressing themselves so that children feel that what they have to say is given value;
➢ Do not be directly critical of children. If necessary enter into a discussion about behavior and/or actions and work with children to understand where they may have been wrong and what would be better options;
➢ Absolutely do not keep dwelling on the past, as children need to know that they can start over with a clean slate. If a pattern develops then maybe have a supportive and caring family intervention;
➢ Desist from trying to control children through guilt because this is a sure way to negatively affect relationships and children’s self esteem as well;
➢ Do not use sarcasm as this can have negative effects on children in many ways;
➢ Work with children to help them solve their problems, instead of imposing solutions, as this can lead to resentment. Instead offer guidance and scope for them to find solutions as children need to learn by themselves and know that they are capable and trusted;
➢ Never put down children, even as a joke. This can lead to children feeling rejected, unloved and inadequate.
➢ Never use threats as these can lead to children feeling powerless and resentful.
With respect to relationships, especially if pregnancy is involved parents must reach out for assistance to ensure that their teenagers are safe. The bottom line is that we all make mistakes as part of the growing up process. In fact even as adults we still continue to make mistakes. So when our teens make mistakes we must understand that its not the end of the world or even the end of life. Life goes on and as parents, we must first help our teenagers deal with the consequences of mistakes made and then help them learn from those mistakes and move on in life. And, when necessary, we must reach for help if we feel that we are not fully capable of providing the help needed by our teenagers.
While the focus here is on parents/children relationships, it must be noted that empathetic communication is also an important tool in all relationships and can be make a critical difference in adult relationships. Thus the same strategies mentioned above can be adapted to suit these adult/adult relationships as well. The fact is that empathetic communication is a great way to diffuse anger, create scope for dialogue and problem solving and allow for mutual respect, understanding and trust. It enables each partner in a relationship to self-express in a context free from fear, threats and eventually violence.
The bottom line is that the time and efforts invested in these measures will save lives, lives that may very well be those of our loved ones. So we all need to do what’s necessary and make suicide and violence prevention everybody’s business. For more information and every sort of help, including finding trainers, dealing with relationships, finding counselors or dealing with abuse, please touch base with the Ministry of Health or Social Protection, regional health authorities, health institutions, regional social workers, or The Caribbean Voice. The Caribbean Voice can be reached at bibiahamed1@hotmail.com, caribvoice@aol.com, deodatpersaud25@yahoo.com, goldenomdharmic@yahoo.com, Keshni.rooplall@yahoo.com or caribbeanvoice101@gmail.com. Also call 621-6111, 223-2637, 627-4423.
The Caribbean Voice also welcomes feedback to this and other articles that have been published over time. To see other articles and get more information about our mission please check out our social media sites:
Website: http://www.caribvoice.org/index.html
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Depression – The Silent Killer


For the average onlooker, it often takes a giant leap of perception and intuition to begin to understand the maze of darkness for which suicide seems a welcoming beam of light for someone suffering from depression. The seeming external calm more often than not, masks a deep-seated turmoil that decapitates the will to do and to be. And so feeling like they no longer belong to anything or anyone, life, for those suffering from depression, literally becomes meaningless, if not burdensome. In effect, depression is often physically and mentally paralyzing, almost bringing day-to-day life to a standstill.
One sufferer from depression disclosed, “With no warning signs, its like the lights just suddenly go out and everything you know and love is meaningless”. Another pointed out, “How do you begin to explain the unbearable, heavy emptiness to someone who’s never experienced it?” Yet another emphasized, “Its so hard when people tell you to cheer up or get over it, there’s nothing I’d like more than for it to be that easy.” For yet another one “Everything did seem like it was falling apart.”
The website, HealthyPlace.com states, “Depression is feeling like you’ve lost something but having no clue when or where you last had it. Then one day you realize what you’ve lost is yourself.” Yet even this attempt at explaining depressions does not give quite the picture. The fact is that depression entails all of the following:
• Fatigue or loss of energy
• Feelings of worthlessness and/or excessive guilt
• Impaired concentration and indecisiveness
• Insomnia (lack of sleep) or hypersomnia (excessive sleeping)
• Significant weight loss (due to loss of appetite – you aren’t hungry or can’t be bothered or both) or gain (due to over eating because you’re bored or feeling empty or both)
• Feeling sad, empty or hopeless most of the day. In children mood can be expressed as irritable.
• Significant loss of interest or pleasure in almost all or all activities most of the day
• Restlessness, agitation or slowing down that can be noticed by others
• Prolonged, harsh self-criticism,
• Crying spells,
• General lack of motivation,
• Unexplained aches and pains,
• Recurrent thoughts of death (not just fear of dying), recurring thoughts of suicide, plan to attempt suicide or actual suicide attempt
Depression is an illness like asthma or diabetes and thus like any other illness, can affect anyone at any age. The World Health Organization refers to depression as “a common illness worldwide” that affects an estimated 350 million people. Also, Guyana’s Mental Health Action Plan notes that depression is the fifth leading contributor to disease burden. As worrying as this trend is, the chances are that it does not take into account youth depression. Recent self esteem workshops done by the New Jersey Arya Samaj Humanitarian Mission (NJASM) and the Peace Corp in Berbcie and The Caribbean Voice, GIVE Foundation and other stakeholders in Demerara, indicate that a significant amount of students and young people suffer from depression at one time or another, often brought on by physical and/or sexual abuse suffered, sometimes at the hands of loved ones and family friends. Given that at its worst, depression can “trigger” suicide, this would partially explain why the 15 to 25 age group exhibits the highest suicide rate in Guyana. In fact, over 800,000 people die due to suicide every year.
In addition, in an effort to numb the pain or hopelessness they are experiencing, persons suffering from depression may often turn to excessive use of alcohol, drugs or other substances. While alcohol or other substances may appear to provide temporary relief, over time, the misuse of these substances will worsen the symptoms and further complicate treatment, while often triggering violent abuse and catalyzing suicide.
Advances in science, specifically brain imaging indicate that the brains of persons who are clinically depressed look different than the brains of those who are not depressed, much in the same way that a diseased heart would look different when compared to a healthy heart. In fact, a combination of genetics and environment contribute to clinical depression and episodes of depression can be triggered by traumatic experiences such as:
➢ childhood or adult physical or sexual abuse,
➢ loss of a loved one,
➢ relationship problems (like a break up with a boyfriend or girlfriend),
➢ unemployment and poverty
➢ pregnancy or childbirth,
➢ a serious physical health condition such as cancer, cardiovascular disease or HIV/AIDS,
➢ an accident or a natural disaster.
➢ a family history of depression,
➢ loneliness
➢ a profound exposure to social alienation,
The Caribbean Health Research Council notes that in the primary care setting the most likely complaints are of a physical nature. Sometimes, however, depression can have no obvious cause at all, but it could be the result of chemical imbalances in the brain.
Episodes of depression can be of mild, moderate or severe intensity and can be long-lasting or periodic and recurrent. The recommended treatment for severe episodes of depression is a combination of medication and talk therapy or counseling. Mild and moderate episodes have been treated with talk therapy or counseling alone.
In countries where resources are limited, healthcare personnel and other lay persons, have been successfully trained to provide evidence-based, structured talk therapy interventions to persons experiencing mild or moderate episodes of depression. Severe episodes of depression require more specialized intervention, which may at times lead to hospitalization.
The bottom line is that depression is treatable and curable, if identified and addressed. In Guyana, such identification can be done by trained first responders, especially given that those suffering from depression often present a façade of happiness, masking their agony with smiles and ‘normalcy’. More importantly, In Guyana, appropriate interventions can be successfully incorporated into primary care settings as part of an integrated approach to health care, as advocated by the World health Organization (WHO), especially for developing nations and with specialized resources constraints. And, in this context, the Gatekeepers’ Program becomes critical as the mechanism to ensure trained first responders within communities, nation wide. It must also be noted that treating depression will not only significantly reduce suicide, and positively impact abuse and violence, but also improve the overall well-being of the nation.
Meanwhile, for those who feel depressed and can somehow summon the will to still be engaged in any sort of activity here are some suggestions that would help:
• Create a ‘done’ list instead of a ‘to do’ list – even the smallest thing such as clipping one’s nails, doing some writing or finishing a chore. This would enable you to recognize that you are, in fact, meaningfully achieving and might spur you on to filling up more of your minutes with activities, even simple things such as making up your bed or straightening out your closet.
• Build a ‘make a life easier’ toolkit, a sort of ‘happy box, if you will that can include stuff that you may have saved over time, such as funny movies, a nice smelling candle, a favorite book, favorite pictures and posters, sayings and messages that you loved…anything that made life easier and happier for you.
• Relive those moments of compliments and accolades. And if you have saved compliments via cards, messages, notes or whatever else, go back to them, perhaps even gather them all in one place and store. They will bring back a sense of self-worth
• Let yourself cry, not so much to reflect your sadness but as a catharsis, to let it all out. You might do this by watching a movie or reading a book that brings tears to your eyes.
• Make a gratitude list. Write down everything and everyone you’re thankful for such as siblings or parents, having a roof over your head, a job that gives you satisfaction, really great friends….As clinical psychologist Dr. Andrea Bonior pointed out on Buzzfeed, “Reminding yourself of what you have leads to appreciation that helps you feel measurably more content.”
• Play with children or animals or visit an elderly person or someone sick, They give so much love that they bring back happiness, even if momentary. They make you temporarily forget your sadness and give something positive to reflect on.
• Also, if you can, find a hobby that makes you feel good, maybe something you always wanted to do but kept putting off such as planting flowers, starting a piece of writing, drawing or coloring or creating/building something such as a simple toy or paper boat.
• If you have been inside for days doing nothing, get ready for the day as if you mean to get outside…shower, brush your teeth, groom your hair and so on. And maybe, just maybe you might find the will to actually go outside and do something. Perhaps then you can get together with family or a group of friends, even if you don’t participate in the conversation. Just being there will take your mind off things for a while.
• Create a happy playlist and listen to music that makes you feel positive and good about yourself.
• If you find yourself eating a lot try to look for healthy food. Comfort food makes you feel like crap whereas health food can help change your feelings even if momentarily.
• If possible start exercising and get caught up in the mood as this will work wonders for the way you feel. Also try meditation as this too can positively impact your mood.
• Most importantly please recognize that you cannot, by yourself, get better so call someone trusted and ask that person to get you help.
Trained first responders and others trained to identify the warning signs, can also help those suffering from depression to apply the strategies outlined above, after building trust.

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