Chief Justice calls for helplines to be featured in suicide stories


Given the high prevalence of suicide and other social ills in Guyana, acting Chief Justice, Roxanne George on Friday, during a workshop hosted for the media, underscored the need for helplines to be placed at the end of such reports to proffer assistance from Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs).
“Might I suggest that the Guyana Press Association (GPA) take the initiative, if it has not done so already, to partner with our leading NGO’s on gender based violence so as to set guidelines for Guyana and get the permission to place helpline information at the end of each story,” the Chief Justice stated.
Justice George added that if such a method has been practiced before, then it needs to be considered for revision and/or recommitment, on the part of the media, to follow such guidelines.
Her call comes at a time when Guyana has been listed among the countries with the highest suicide rates in the world. But Clinical Psychologist attached to the Public Health Ministry, Balogun Osunbiyi recently told Guyana Times that these eyebrow-raising figures have decreased significantly.
In 2012, according to Osunbiyi, suicide death rates in Guyana stood at 44.2 per cent. However, over the years, this high percentage has decreased with 2016 figures standing at 29 per cent and 24.67 per cent in 2017. Although the figures for 2018 have not been officially released, this newspaper was told that suicide-related deaths were down by at least 50 per cent.
While these numbers may be good for the country, The Caribbean Voice had a different view on the matter.
In fact, the Managing Director of the agency, Bibi Ahamad, believes that the numbers have not significantly decreased and that the Health Ministry might be trying to paint that picture.
She said that the numbers suggested that the figures may have been reduced, but many suicidal attempts are smeared when victims are rushed to the hospital and are treated.
Law amendment
When it comes to the safety and protection of domestic violence victims, the local Judiciary is very strict and is, in fact, seeking to up its game in this regard.
Already, media personnel can be fined $2 million for identifying complainants and witnesses in sexual offense cases.
As explained by the Chief Justice, such cases are “deeply personal” and “traumatic” for not only victims, but their children and other relatives, and reporting in a reckless manner can leave lifelong scars and labels on these persons. As such, she explained the need for an amendment to the law to allow for in-camera hearings of domestic violence cases, in addition to sexual offenses.
She said, “…we may have to seek amendment to the law to provide for in-camera hearings of criminal cases that are domestic violence related, like the provisions in place for sexual offenses cases.” (Davina Ramdass)

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Build shelters and safe houses in every region


Social Protection Minister Amna Ally and US Ambassador Sarah-Ann Lynch were among those at the sod-turning exercise recently in Linden for the construction of two shelters. These projects are being undertaken by the United States Military Services, under the New Horizons initiative. Indeed, it is very laudable that the Linden community and Region 10 will finally be having shelters for abused women and children.
Incidentally, in reacting to news of the Linden shelters, a youth activist and ERC Commissioner lauded the efforts on social media but called for similar shelters to be built in other regions, especially Regions Two and Six which have very pressing needs. A member of the Child Rights Commission responded to the young man’s call by telling him to get his fellow Hindus to build other shelters. Requested to explain what her bewilderingly biased statement has to do with the issue under discussion, that CRC Commissioner has gone silent.
In any case, The Caribbean Voice reminds the Honourable Minister, Amna Ally, that while there are a couple of drop-in centres and homes, there are no shelters for abused women and children in any other region. But we are certain that the Honourable Minister recognises the urgent need for such shelters and even safe houses in every region. And so we look forward to soon hearing about these initiatives.

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Stakeholders must develop campaign against bus drivers, conductors who prey on young girls


Over the years there have been many cases brought before the courts with regards to teenaged schoolgirls being sexually abused and raped by minibus drivers and conductors. Only recently there have been at least two cases in which charges were laid against the perpetrators, one of them in which the victim was twelve years old.

However, The Caribbean Voice is aware of many cases that never made the courts or media. Often times, threats or payoffs or both are used to silence victims and their parents. Occasionally the relationship between perpetrator and victim is allowed to continue by parents who receive a regular ‘fee’ in return.

The vulnerability of young girls as a result of an absent parent in a household is one factor at play. When a child is brought up in a single parent home, there is a great possibility that the parent wouldn’t have the time to devote to the child as the parent may very well be the sole provider. Thus the child will respond to any attention she gets outside of the home.

Also poverty plays an integral part, as perpetrators are able to lure these unsuspecting victims with gifts and even money that they cannot get otherwise. Then there is the even more startling offer of being in a “shine ride” or sitting next to the minibus driver, which often seems appealing to the budding young woman. Often too, the offer of drugs and alcohol helps to eliminate or minimize victim’s inhibitions.

Regardless of the reasons, the fact remains that teenaged females need protecting as they aren’t mature enough to recognize the dangers in getting involved in relationships that they clearly aren’t prepared to deal with and that can have dire consequences for them. Parents need to become more involved in their children’s lives outside of the home. They need to monitor their activities, in and out of school and be more vigilant and more observant of the daily routines of their children.

The Guyana Police Force Traffic Department needs to collaborate with the Ministry of Education and other stakeholders to develop a campaign aimed at targeting these minibus drivers and conductors, who prey on the unsuspecting young. Severe penalties should be brought on for those who are found guilty of encouraging and engaging in this practice. Also the Code of Conduct for minibus drivers and conductors should include penalties that must include suspension of licences for first offences and taking away of licences for repeat offenders.

Schools also have a role to play. Ongoing drug and alcohol abuse programmes should be taken to every school and offered as part of Family Health and Life Curriculum. And teachers should spend time to connect with their students in a manner that develops trust so the students can open up with respect to any and everything, especially when something is bothering them or affecting them.

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Provocation is no justification for abuse


A domiciled Guyanese posted on Facebook that women should stop provoking men, since such provocation leads to domestic abuse. This victim-blaming is nothing new but it is indeed astounding that there are still women who propagate such a view, yet claim to be anti-abuse activists, as this poster does.
Experts have reached a consensus on several common characteristics among batterers — they are controlling, manipulative, often see themselves as victims and believe that men have a pre-ordained right to be in charge of all aspects of a relationship. For some abusers, violence is a tool to keep their intimate partner from leaving the relationship, ensure that she ‘knows her place’ and ‘respect’ him, although respect is generally equated with fear. Abuse then is the continuous result of power inequality between the partners and one partner is afraid of and harmed by the other, who feels powerful in the relationship context, with ‘provocation’ being a mere excuse to exhibit this power.
Yet the same individual who hits his partner or child would be quite angry if a police officer pulled him up for no reason and/or profiled him, but he would never chose to hit the police officer. Similarly that person would put up with provocation, but never chose to hit a boss, a worker in a government office, someone in authority or someone bigger and stronger than him.
Yes, abuse is a choice, which means there are non-violent alternatives. However, in a society where women are still subservient to men, males are still socialized to see themselves as the ones with ‘power’ in a relationship and citizens see abuse as not their business, alternate choices are hardly ever considered. Such alternatives include: do not overreact but stay calm and take a walk if necessary; listen without interrupting but to understand; show respect instead of engaging in back and forth insults; be emphatic instead of judgmental and apologize when the situation so demands; give each other space; discuss issues to seek non-violent resolutions and even use humor in this process; recall the positives of the relationship as a way of recognizing what is at stake; seek the help of someone with mediating skills such as elder or a priest…
We know that the alternatives to abuse are easier said than done but conscious effort is needed to deal with relationship issues without resorting to violence, so that not only do the relationships grow but children in such relationships are taught by example to non-violently handle conflicts instead of growing up to become abusers. This approach is generally included in workshops and outreaches by abuse prevention entities such as The Caribbean Voice. But a lot of this information can also be found online.
Also, the otherization of the call to action must be addressed. On the one hand many who suggest what should be done, expect some hazy other to take action, as they remain dismissive of the call for abuse prevention to be everyone’s business, the need for each one of us to tackle the issue in our homes, communities and workplace as that is really where the walls of silence need to be broken down and misplaced concepts such as family honor and status need to be shunted aside. On the other hand the deafening silence fosters abuse, sometimes with fatal consequences, often because victims and others know not what to do and how to do it. This need to know is critical since abuse prevention starts with you and you and you. And again a lot of information can be found online. Information and help can also be accessed as follows:
o The Domestic Abuse Helpline for Men and Women: 1-888-7HELPLINE http://dahmw.org/
o The National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY) http://www.thehotline.org/
o To get help with teenage dating abuse contact loveisrespect.org. This national program provides a hotline, live chat, texting and other services: 1-866-331-9474 http://www.loveisrespect.org/
o For help with physical abuse involving gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people call the Gay and Lesbian National Hotline: 1-888-THE-GLNH http://www.glnh.org
The Caribbean Voice has been involved in suicide and abuse prevention since 2014 when we launched out in Guyana. This year we set up a steering committee in Trinidad & Tobago that is working towards an official launch there next year. Here in the US we have been doing counseling and outreach for a number of years. Last year we launched the weekly two-hour Facebook broadcast, The Mind Body Connection, which provides information and coping strategies for both mental and physical health issues.
We have lots of plans as we seek to ramp up our work in the Caribbean and North America. Included are two one-day conferences in Queens and Brooklyn that will focus on suicide and abuse prevention. As well, we hope to be able to take our mental health workshops to religious institutions, workplaces, NGOs, charity groups and wherever else possible. This workshop addresses abuse among a range of mental health related issues and is offered for free with hosts covering costs associated with training. Entities interested in this workshop please see contact information below.
Meanwhile we urge everyone to act on the premise that abuse prevention is everybody’s business and to ensure you help victims to seek and access help, including safety, as well as encourage partners in dysfunctional relationships to seek couples counseling. Or you can reach out to The Caribbean Voice as we can either provide the counseling or source it for those in need.

PS: Catch our Internet radio and FB live program The Mind Body Connection every Monday on Island Zone Radio from 8 to 10 PM with hosts Shanaz Hussain and Hiram Rampersaud. Log on to The Caribbean Voice Media page on FB for videos of all programs. Also The Caribbean Voice can help you access help for any and all mental health issues. Please email us at caribvoice@aol.com, call 646-461-0574 (Annan), 917-767-2248 (Hiram), 631805-6605 (Shanaz) or 516-286-8952 (Dr. Rodney). Also check out our website at http://www.caribvoice.org for more information.

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If You See Something do Something; Counseling Save Lives


48 eight year old, Shamwatie Loutan, a Guyanese American woman living in New York City, took her life recently following a period of depression. According to a report in the New York Daily News, the mother of three, who had been awaiting the final decree in a divorce from her husband of more than 20 years, set herself ablaze in the backyard of her Rosedale home. First responders pronounced her dead at the scene.
One daughter as well as a neighbour indicated that Loutan began displaying signs of depression, as the divorce progressed. The daughter is also quoted as saying, “It was just out of nowhere”. Really?
The Daily News also stated that a man coming out of Loutan’s former home confirmed that “she was depressed” while a cousin said “We have no idea what caused this.”
Again we ask, really?”
That a number of persons recognized growing signs of depression begs the question: did they not know that unless urgently addressed, depression can and usually does lead to suicide?”
In fact, research clearly shows that depression is one of two mental illnesses that lead to suicide, the other being anxiety. Even if they did not know that, surely they would have known that depression cam be addressed through counseling? Research indicates that counseling for both depression and anxiety generally prevents suicide. In fact, several studies have shown that counseling is generally effective. According to Shannon Sumrall in ‘Counseling Effectiveness’, “high success rates appear in meta-analysis of the literature” on counseling effectiveness. She added, “the vast majority of the research when examined as a whole seem to indicate very positive outcomes for counseling”.
As well counseling is covered by most insurance and requires only the same co-pay paid for any other medical issue. All it would take therefore is for someone to make a call.
So here’s the deal: IF YOU SEE SOMETHING DO SOMETHING! Take action and save a life rather than lament that the person was depressed after the person has killed himself or herself. In effect suicide prevention is not only everybody’s business but it is a proactive endeavor whereby one must act as soon as one suspects depression or suicidal intent. As the old saying goes, ‘its better to be safe than to be sorry’. Besides you must do for someone else what you would want someone to do for you.
Yes, counseling saves lives, but counseling must only be done by trained professionals. If you are not a trained counselor (with at least a masters degree and clinical training) PLEASE DO NOT ATTEMPT TO COUNSEL We know of persons who claim to be counselors because they, themselves were counseled at one time. That would be like someone sitting in a courtroom listening to a few cases then claiming to be a lawyer, or someone who, after witnessing a doctor at work, concludes that he or she has become a doctor. A lawyer, a doctor or a counselor must have requisite professional qualifications and in the case of counselors, supervised clinical experience, before practicing on his or her own.
The Caribbean Voice has seen first hand the fatal results of someone attempting counseling without requisite training. The latest was the case of a young lady killing herself after her father paid a quack counselor to counsel her because she was suicidal. We have also had many, many experiences, whereby people would say, ‘I talk to him/her but he/she does not listen to me’. You may be well meaning and out of love and concern believe that once you talk to a depressed or suicidal person everything would be ok. But it would not be, because you don’t have the tools with which to communicate and, in fact, your ‘talk’ could well make matters worse. We don’t know if anyone attempted to talk to Shamwatie Loutan but that could well be possible. And if that did happen we have now seen the fatal result!
The Caribbean Voice is aware that a traditional taboo against counseling exists among Caribbeans to a greater or lesser degree, with some feeling that ‘only mad people need counseling’. But we have seen, time and again, that depressed individuals, from all walks of live, who fail to seek counseling, end up dying by suicide. Even in our own experiences every one of the 400 plus cases we have handled so far, have been successful, while a number of cases, of which we are aware, that did not get counseled, ended up as suicide fatalities. Yes suicide is a killer just like any other fatal disease.
Free counseling services for suicidal and depressed persons are offered through the following:
➢ National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255
➢ Crisis call Center at 775-784-8090 or text to 839863
➢ Disaster Distressed Helpline at 800-985-5990 or text to 66746
➢ Depression Hotline at 639-482-9696
You can also contact The Caribbean Voice (see contact info below) for referral to counseling or, if needs be, for counseling by any of our counselors.

PS: Catch our Internet radio and FB live program The Mind Body Connection every Monday on Island Zone Radio from 8 to 10 PM with hosts Shanaz Hussain and Hiram Rampersaud. Log on to The Caribbean Voice Media page on FB for videos of all programs. Also The Caribbean Voice can help you access help for any and all mental health issues. Please email us at caribvoice@aol.com, call 646-461-0574 (Annan), 917-767-2248 (Hiram), 631805-6605 (Shanaz), 646-202-3971 (Neela) or 516-286-8952 (Dr. Rodney). In Guyana call Bibi at 621-6111 and in T&T call Keisha at 686-3623. Also check out our website at http://www.caribvoice.org for more information.

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Awful Choice of Words


In a recent news report by Newsroom, Chairman of the Guyana Power and Light, Rawle Lucas, in reference to the blackouts, stated, “This is one child we must kill, I know people don’t like to murder but that one we have to end”.
The awful choice of words by the GPL Chairman seems to have flown under the radar as the Guyana media has almost no mention of it, social media is undisturbed by it and not a peep from children advocates and activists in Guyana. However, a number of social activists – individuals and groups – are extremely perturbed by the utter lack of sensitivity displayed by the GPL Chairman and we call on that gentleman to issue a public apology to Guyana’s children and parents. We also call upon Minister of Public Infrastructure, David Patterson to publicly indicate his and his ministry’s position with respect to use of such language by the GPL chairman.
Finally we call upon the public to consider a picketing exercise in front of the GPL Chairman’s office to let him know that wanting to ‘kill children’ will not be tolerated.

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Urgent Intervention Needed


Two days before the media carried stories of paranormal activities at the Police Training Center, Pandit Deodat Persaud, ERC Commissioner and Youth Liaison of The Caribbean Voice, wrote on his Facebook page, “On my way home from Georgetown tonight, I happened to share the company of a few police trainee officers; who like their colleagues, managed to ‘escape’ from the training centre at Eve Leary. Apparently, some paranormal activities developed since last Saturday. Many wanted to return to their homes ever since; however, permission was denied. Tonight was unbearable and from observation everyone was leaving.
I then learnt of their horrible living conditions: complains about unsanitary living conditions, lack of proper meals among other areas of concerns. While I understand that police training is an intensive one; there were concerns that the programme is inhumane. I became very empathetic to their plights since they are young people who, given the lack of job opportunities, resorted to the police force, only to be greeted by these torturous conditions.
As expected in Guyana, the fear of victimisation for complaining and with parental expectations, these officers as I understood have limited or no options, and that is exploited upon. Young people are sadly at the receiving end of poor management and incompetence by persons whose eras have long gone.
I therefore call for an urgent investigation into the living conditions of the Police Training Institute and an assessment of the current curriculum. In my opinion, these officers are under severe stress and as a result these paranormal activities are a manifest of the situation. I am calling for immediate counseling for these traumatized future guardians of our nation as well as mental health training.”
In commenting on Pandit Deodat’s post, ex-police officer, Linden Johnson stated, “Every batch of recruit gets the same story and it seems like no one cares.” He went on to call for the Police Commissioner to make impromptu visits to the center, adding that, “Former Commissioner, Carl Austin, would just walk over to the school without giving notice,” and his visits ensured that standards were kept high.
Another comment, by social activist, Vidyartha Kissoon, indicated that, “Dr. Janice Jackson had developed training modules for self-awareness and domestic violence prevention but these were thrown aside”. He added, “The last time I interacted with recruits, I was horrified that they were drinking red bull to stay awake”
Now we don’t know if there is a connection between the awful training/living conditions and limited curriculum on the one hand and the ‘paranormal’ activities on the other but everyone knows that there does indeed exist a mind body connection. In any case The Caribbean Voice joins Pandit Deodat Persaud and others in calling for urgent intervention to improve the training/living conditions; for the curriculum to include mental health issues such as suicide, sexual and domestic violence, stress management, self esteem, coping skills and emphatic communication and for counseling to be made available to all trainees with a special focus on building resilience and positive self esteem while arming trainees with coping skills to be able to handle challenges. We also strongly suggest that the training should include a focus on ethics and value-laden norms.

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