Alcoholism


The issue of alcohol and the massive damaging effects it is having on individuals and communities has once again been brought to the fore. It was reported in the media that, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), alcohol kills a whopping three million people worldwide each year — more than AIDS, violence and road accidents combined. It was stated that men are particularly at risk.
WHO’s Global status report on alcohol and health 2018, published recently, presents a comprehensive picture of alcohol consumption and the disease burden attributable to alcohol worldwide. It also describes what countries are doing to reduce this burden. And for those that are lagging, it explains what could be done to discourage the use of alcohol and possibly reduce the huge negative impact it is having on countries.
According to the WHO, alcohol causes more than one in 20 deaths globally each year, including drunk driving, alcohol-induced violence and abuse and a multitude of diseases and disorders. Men account for more than three quarters of alcohol-related deaths.
The report explains that alcohol drinking is linked to more than 200 health conditions, including liver cirrhosis and some cancers. Alcohol abuse also makes people more susceptible to infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, HIV and pneumonia.
For young people, the numbers are even more alarming, with a full 13.5 per cent of all deaths among 20-29-year-olds considered to be alcohol-related, the study found. In comparison, HIV/AIDS was responsible for 1.8 per cent of global deaths in 2016, road injuries accounted for 2.5 per cent and violence for 0.8 per cent. Globally, an estimated 237 million men and 46 million women suffer from alcohol use disorders, WHO said.
Here in Guyana, there are many social ills affecting citizens, and alcohol abuse is seen one of the contributing factors. According to the WHO, the alcohol death rate for Guyana is 5.95 per 100,000 (globally ranked 70). This is still quite high and urgent action must be taken to further reduce this figure.
Due to poor lifestyle choices such as; alcohol abuse, tobacco use, unhealthy diets, and physical inactivity, NCDs have resulted in large numbers of our young people dying. Another significant number have also fallen ill and therefore cannot contribute to their families or the development of their communities in any way.
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus was quoted in the media as saying that far too many people, their families and communities suffer the consequences of the harmful use of alcohol through violence, injuries, mental health problems and diseases like cancer and stroke.
According to The Caribbean Voice, an organisation that has been engaged in research etc in this field, alcohol is a trigger for abuse, especially gender based, child and sexual abuse. It explains that some abusers rely on substance use (and abuse) as an excuse for becoming violent – alcohol allows the abuser to justify his abusive behaviour as a result of the alcohol. Alcohol affects the user’s ability to perceive, integrate and process information. Further, the organisation points to other substantial costs to society include property damage, job loss and health service costs.
WHO is urging countries to do more to counter harmful drinking and to reach a goal of cutting global consumption by 10 percent between 2010 and 2025. It is also urging countries to tax alcohol and ban advertising of such beverages to reduce consumption. However, this is not enough, there is need to push for a change in attitude and lifestyle changes in general, especially amongst the younger segment of our population.
While the Government must play a crucial role in designing the relevant programmes and policies and putting in place the necessary legislative framework and other support mechanisms aimed at addressing the harmful use of alcohol, this burden must also be shared by other stakeholders too; such as religious groups, the private sector and other Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO) etc.
It is hoped that the Government here, international development partners and other stakeholders will use this most recent WHO report on alcohol as a wakeup call to take urgent action aimed at addressing the harmful use of alcohol in this country.
(Guyana Times editorial of November 17, 2018)

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16 days of activism campaign against domestic violence planned


The Social Protection Ministry will be collaborating with Voices Against Violence to raise awareness on gender-based violence and the elimination of violence against women.
The awareness session will kick off on November 25 and conclude on December 10. The 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence Campaign is a time to galvanise action to end violence against women and girls around the world. The international campaign originated from the first Women’s Global Leadership Institute coordinated by the Centre for Women’s Global Leadership in 1991.
In recent years, the voices of survivors and activists, through campaigns such as #MeToo, #TimesUp, #Niunamenos, #NotOneMore, #BalanceTonPorc and others, have reached a crescendo that cannot be silenced any more. Advocates understand that while the names and contexts may differ across geographic locations, women and girls everywhere are experiencing extensive abuse and their stories need to be brought to light. This is why the UNiTE Campaign’s global advocacy theme this year is: Orange the World: #HearMeToo.
Currently, more than 3700 organisations from approximately 164 countries participate in the campaign annually. Joining these organisations this year is Voices Against Violence, an umbrella entity comprising NGOs, FBOs, CBOs and other entities and activists, that is organising speak outs across Guyana. This effort has been endorsed by the Ministry, which is partnering with Voices Against Violence; the Women and Gender Equality Commission and Help and Shelter.
Organisations, groups and communities are urged to bring people together and have them share experiences, personal or otherwise, on gender based, child and sexual abuse as well as brainstorm on ideas to address these scourges. The idea is to create scope for victims to speak out since doing so is a form of catharsis that can also motivate and inspire other victims. Speak outs sessions do not need large attendance; 10 persons would be enough. And since this is about the attendees themselves, guest speakers are not necessary. Anyone can moderate a session. Organisers are urged to video the sessions so they can be used for sensitisation, advocacy and activism, while ideas can be gathered together and share with relevant Government Ministries and agencies as well as the media.

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Guyanese to speak out on gender-based violence


From November 25th, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, to 10 December, Human Rights Day, the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence Cam-paign is a time to galvanize action to end violence against women and girls around the world. The international campaign originated from the first Women’s Global Leadership Institute coordinated by the Center for Women’s Global Leadership in 1991.

For far too long, impunity, silence and stigma have allowed violence against women to escalate to pandemic proportions – one in three women worldwide experience gender-based violence.

The time for change is here and now. In recent years, the voices of survivors and activists, through campaigns such as #MeToo, #TimesUp, #Niunamenos, #NotOneMore, #BalanceTonPorc and others, have reached a crescendo that cannot be silenced anymore. Advocates understand that while the names and contexts may differ across geographic locations, women and girls everywhere are experiencing extensive abuse and their stories need to be brought to light. This is why the UNiTE Campaign’s global advocacy theme this year is: Orange the World: #HearMeToo

Currently, more than 3,700 organizations from approximately 164 countries participate in the campaign annually. Joining these organizations this year is Voices Against Violence, an umbrella entity comprising NGOs, FBOs, CBOs and other entities and activists, that is organizing speak outs across Guyana. This effort has been endorsed by the Ministry of Social Protection, which is partnering with Voices Against Violence. Other partners include the Women & Gender Equality Commission and Help and Shelter.

Organizations, groups and communities are urged to bring people together and have them share experiences, personal or otherwise, on gender based, child and sexual abuse as well as brainstorm on ideas to address these scourges. The idea is to create scope for victims to speak out since doing so is a form of catharsis that can also motivate and inspire other victims. Speak out sessions do not need large attendance; 10 persons would be enough. And since this is about the attendees themselves, guest speakers are not necessary. Anyone can moderate a session. Organizers are urged to video the sessions so they can be used for sensitization, advocacy and activism, while ideas can be gathered together and shared with relevant government ministries and agencies as well as the media.

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Suicide prevention is so much more than just sharing a helpline number


SINCE its launch in 2015, mention has often been made about the Suicide Helpline, although stats are hard to come by even though releasing them could be an incentive for others to use the helpline. In any case, saving a life can’t solely rely on the person who is at risk, who will most probably never call the helpline; the person who would do so is the someone else, who is able to recognise that the person is actually at risk, someone such as a gatekeeper or lay counsellor who are trained to identify suicide warning signs. And this is so necessary in the context of Guyana, where there seems to be pattern of ignoring even the most obvious signs on the part of family and friends of those at risk; and/or dismissing suicide ideation as jokes and/or not being serious. Gatekeepers would also help others to be able to identify the warning signs and thus enable circles of understanding that all such signs must always be taken seriously, even if it means erring on the side of caution.

The issue of gatekeepers brings to the fore the concept of collaboration. This has been touted over and over and over by all and sundry, including the government, as the way to go in small economies such as Guyana’s; such economies cannot afford to roll out the comprehensive mental health and suicide-prevention infrastructure and supports. Collaboration is best exemplified by the Gatekeeper’s Programme, which arms communities with lay counsellors who can take proactive action to not only prevent the act of suicide, but to also address various forms of abuse.

The Caribbean Voice is getting ready to launch a national lay counsellor train the trainers programme next year. Since the government is best positioned to ensure the logistics necessary for such a programme, we will be reaching out to requisite government ministries, agencies and departments to seek partnerships. This will include help to bring on board NGOs, FBOs, CBOs, local government agencies and mass-based organisations; this is to ensure not only that the trainers are provided with the skill sets and knowledge base, but to also support them as they then seek to train gatekeepers in every community, once they receive their training. In effect, this can and should be a total collaborative effort.

Once signs are identified, scope must also be provided to such individuals to talk more and to give them a response that’s non-judgmental and really supportive. But this too calls for some basic training in emphatic communication and here again, gatekeepers come into play. In effect, we need to deepen the mental health literacy of our nation, to the point that people become self-aware of the triggers and improvers of their own mental health, as they are with their physical health. And this process starts with gatekeepers who can train others in their communities.

At a recent forum on suicide in Guyana, mention was made of the need for community-based services to tackle suicide. Well this process can start with gatekeepers who are the most critical cog in the wheel of suicide prevention at the community level. This is why too TCV is also extremely happy that the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), on September 17, launched a virtual course on suicide prevention for primary healthcare workers in the Americas, including the Caribbean. The course, which is free, self-directed and available in English on PAHO’s Virtual Campus for Public Health (https://www.campusvirtualsp.org/en/), is divided into seven modules; it is also based on the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Intervention Guide for Mental, Neurological and Substance Use Disorders (mhGAP-IG) that includes evidence-based interventions to identify and manage priority mental health disorders, including self-inflicted injuries and suicide at the first level of health care.

The Caribbean Voice urges government to take the lead in providing scope to ensure that in addition to all primary health care workers, all social workers, welfare officers, teachers and outreach personnel, such as those engaged in youth or women empowerment, take this training. We encourage activists, NGOs, Faith-Based Organisations and Community-Based Organisations to also use this opportunity to gain the critical skills and knowledge to enhance their suicide-prevention activism. And we also urge all media to publicise the link and a message, urging the general public to take advantage of this training.
Speaking of the media, we note that Trinidad & Tobago recently launched its National Media Guidelines for Responsible Reporting on Suicide. While we are aware that significant changes in such reportage has been effected by the local media, reportage is still not where it should be. So we urge the crafting and launching of similar guidelines for the Guyanese media. PAHO has been instrumental in providing relevant training to the local media and its assistance can be harnessed in putting these guidelines together.

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Regulations governing NGOs need to be simplified


According to a recent letter in the local media, “people of questionable character are forming NGOs and going around the world under false pretence, professing to be doing all kinds of good service in Guyana when in reality no one in Guyana is benefiting from these entities”. In some cases, they have never been heard of here. Many of these institutions are collecting millions of dollars from members, donors, foreign and local governments, but there is no accounting of how this money is being spent.
Many NGOs in Guyana do not comply with either their own constitutions or the Friendly Societies Act which governs their operations.”
The Caribbean Voice is a New York-registered NGO and not-for-profit organisation with almost two decades of experience in activism. And from the very inception, collaboration has been the pivot on which we have been operating. Thus we have collaborated with the New York City Department of Education to sponsor an essay context for students; with NBC TV and the Caribbean American Chamber of Commerce and Industry to raise funds for Caribbean hurricane victims; have held highly successful business and international awards; have published The Caribbean Voice magazine and newspaper for over a decade; have helped other Caribbean NGOs in the diaspora in myriad ways, including mediating internal problems and collaborating with other NGOs on social issues activism, especially abuse and suicide.
Thus when we decided to launch our Suicide Prevention campaign in Guyana, we used the collaborative approach with the National Suicide Prevention and Related Issues Conference held in August 15 in Georgetown, and this was attended by over 75 stakeholders nationally. We have since collaborated with numerous entities, NGOs, faith-based and community-based organisations, local and regional governments, mass-based and special-interest groups, and fellow diaspora NGOs.
All NGOs we have worked with are manned by volunteers who are caring, passionate and dedicated; who give so much of their time, effort and resources to make a difference every which way; and who are generally transparent with respect to both their work and the funds generated for such work.
So while there may be “People of questionable character professing to be doing all kinds of good service in Guyana when in reality no one in Guyana is benefiting,” TCV has no experience of such. If the letter writer is aware of such, we urge that he reports them so they can be brought to task before creating significant harm.
However, we are aware of entities registered as businesses but are promoting themselves as NGOs, and of a handful of individuals for whom social activism is a fashion statement and an ego-boosting excursion.
Also, we are aware that the cumbersome and burdensome Friendly Societies Act has brought a number of NGOs to a standstill, while impeding the work of others. So we believe that the regulations governing NGOs need to be simplified, and the registration process made easier and less demanding. Thus three persons should be sufficient for registration purpose, instead of the stipulated minimum of seven. As well, the process should easily facilitate not-for-profit and tax-exempt status, which is currently not the case. And there should be a simple procedure to facilitate diaspora-based NGOs to operate in Guyana as well as to set up local branches of their organisations. Currently, over 100 diaspora-based NGOs operate at some level in Guyana.
TCV also suggests there should be oversight to ensure registered businesses do not project themselves as NGOs, or fundraise as such. In fact, we also suggest establishing a data base/registry of NGOs, so all NGOs can be easily tracked and monitored and so that stakeholders’ collaboration can easily be built for any aspect of activism, such as suicide or abuse prevention, for example. This database/registry should be available to the public.
All NGOs should also lodge copies of their constitutions with the relevant Ministry, and user-friendly mechanism should be set to facilitate complaints and quick and conclusive investigations. While we do absolutely agree that transparency and accountability must be in place, we suggest that monitoring be standardised, so as not to be onerous and breathing- down-the-neck demanding. As well, anyone who supports charitable work and social activism via any NGO should not only have the right to demand accountability, but should be able to access same via the database/registry.

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US$32,000 suicide prevention programme to come on stream next year


Areas that are known to have the highest suicide rates will be among the key targets for a strategic programme slated to be implemented next year.
The lay counsellor programme which will ensure high-burden areas within Regions Two, Five and Six are reached, is estimated to be executed at a cost of US$32,000 for a one-year period by The Caribbean Voice [TCV], a non-governmental organisation [NGO].
TCV has among its primary aim the need to help improve mental and physical health by focusing on measures to reduce violence and suicide.
In its quest to give even more focus to the challenge of suicide, which sometimes follows an act of homicide, TCV has taken the initiative to introduce the lay counsellor programme.
Tasked with coordinating the programme is TCV’s Education and Training Director, Ms. Leslyn Holder. She, however, disclosed recently that the organisation has consistently been doing its part to help combat the scourge of suicide and violence too.
“We have been doing countrywide awareness, capacity building, training; we have been running with a trainer of trainers programme for suicide prevention and we are now embarking on more in-depth training for our anti-violence programme,” Holder related.
But the lay counsellor programme will essentially see the organisation taking its efforts even further.
“Our lay counsellor programme, which we decided to put in place, sort of replaces what was known as the gate-keepers programme,” said Holder. According to her, “The lay counsellor programme is similar in content but focuses more on persons in the community becoming trainers themselves and first responder.”
As she spoke of the plans to implement the one-year programme, Holder said, “We hope to cover all of the 10 regions in Guyana but for some of the more high burden regions like Five, Six and Two we will have to run more than one sessions.”
The lay counsellor programme, according to TCV’s National Coordinator, Nazim S. Hussain, will be held in three-day sessions at a time. But in order to ensure that this programme is implemented effectively, Hussain said that the NGO is also looking for support.
“We are looking forward to nation-wide support, especially corporate support…,” said the National Coordinator who revealed that thus far the programme support has been forthcoming from KFC in the sum of US$8,000.
Marketing Manager of KFC [Guyana], Livasti Bhooplall, in handing over the financial support earlier this year to Hussain, said that KFC is very proud to be contributing to the lay counsellor initiative even as she encouraged other members of Corporate Guyana to donate to the cause too.
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, Guyana is in critical need of these types of training programmes since the daily news is filled with domestic violence.
“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,” said Hussain as he too asked that other companies emulate what KFC has done.
The need for support is important Holder added, since “suicide prevention is everybody’s business. If at no other time, this is the time for us to collaborate against what is happening in our country. We all need to work together to ensure awareness is raised countrywide.”
According to Holder too, while the organisation is aiming to especially target specific areas, often the situation that exists is that focus is directed to some sections of the country while others, where the need is most, are neglected.

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TCV begins countrywide mental health, suicide workshops


Several workshops were conducted by the Caribbean Voice (TCV) as that non-governmental organisation (NGO) continued its efforts to eradicate suicide and mental health issues.
Two sessions were recently held with youths from Regions Two (Pomeroon-Supenaam) and Five (Mahaica-Berbice) in the areas of abuse and suicide in collaboration with the Ministry of the Presidency.
In the last three months, addiction workshops were also organised and led by Canada-based addiction specialist Shirvington Hannays.
These were conducted at the Child Care and Protection Agency (CCPA) in Region Four (Demerara-Mahaica) and at the Fort Wellington Secondary School in collaboration with the West Berbice Cricket Board.
For 2018, over 500 teachers were also involved in four mental health workshops held in collaboration with the Guyana Teachers Union (GTU) at the Canje Secondary School, Berbice High School, Leonora Secondary School, and Friendship Secondary School.
With support from the respective sugar estates and Guyana Agricultural WorkersUnion (GAWU), mental health workshops were held for sugar workers at Skeldon and Albion Estates.
In the coming week, a presentation on suicide will be made to staff and students at The Upper Corentyne Industrial Training Centre at Corriverton, Region Six (East Berbice-Corentyne), while others will follow at Black Bush Polder in November.
Four surveys have also been conducted, which provided information on the public’s view on the establishment of a registry of sex offenders. In the most recent one, findings showed a significant support for mandated counselling for all persons with mental health issues who appear in courts to answer charges.
Additionally, information from the survey indicate that all healthcare workers and educators should be mandated to report any and all forms of abuse or suspicion of abuse, and that Police officers be trained to appropriately handle abuse and suicide cases.
TCV is also preparing for three national campaigns next year, mainly a lay counsellor training programme, a domestic violence campaign, and a house-to-house campaign in suicide and abuse hotspots.

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