Even as plans are being streamlined for a strategic workshop to prepare suicide prevention advocates to better help those struggling with core suicidal issues such as low self esteem, depression and substance abuse, other tactical programmes are ongoing aiming for the same outcome.
The Caribbean Voice has etched in its outreach agenda the hosting of a Teacher Training workshop targeting teachers of the Friendship, East Coast Demerara Primary School. The workshop is planned for Thursday [April 19, 2018] and comes as part of a suicide prevention initiative, which the Non Governmental Organisation [NGO] has being undertaking in collaboration with the Guyana Teachers Union [GTU].
Also collaborating with the Caribbean Voice for the Teacher Training programme is the Ministry of Social Protection’s Childcare and Protection Agency.
According to National Coordinating Director of the Caribbean Voice, Mr. Nazim Hussain, the suicide and violent prevention drive will also see the continuance of workshops in various sections of the country.
In this regard, he spoke of plans for a Mental Health anti-suicide workshop slated for the Albion Estate on May 19, 2018. This forum, according to Hussain, will target the people of the community with a particular focus on sugar workers, religious leaders and other people who can make a notable impact.
“What we are hoping to do is to once again do what is called the trainer of trainers’ workshop so that we can have gate keepers,” Hussain noted.
The gate keeper programme is one that targets those who are vulnerable in society – in this case those are susceptible to self harm or violent behaviour. Even as he addressed the issue of self harm, Hussain assured, “People do not want to self harm; it is a final plea for help. What they want is to have someone who can be compassionate and that person does not have to be a family member. It doesn’t have to be somebody such as their spouse, mother or parents; it can be anyone else who gives five minutes of their time to help save a life.”
As he commented on recent perpetration of violent crimes too, Hussain said, “Our view is if more people could understand how to safeguard mental health, how to develop self esteem and how to be able to appreciate and be part of emphatic communication, it could save lives.”
The Caribbean Voice, according to Hussain, is an entity that embraces the notion that once people understand the warning signs of suicide for instance they will be able to perceive when someone is vulnerable and therefore in need of help.
He noted that while the Caribbean Voice does not profess to have all of the answers, “we think that the awareness we can create can be a stepping stone to saving lives. It is vital that all Guyanese understand that although suicide is influence by thoughts, these thoughts are influence by things that happen in the community or even globally.”
Hussain explained that when a child is born, he or she is void of things such as hate, ideations of self harm and violence. Such traits, he related, are eventually learnt from parents and others within the child’s environment.
“So what transpires when a person is violent, is really something that is influenced,” Hussain emphasised. He disclosed that the Caribbean Voice has been continually advocating for the media to, as far as possible, desist from sensationalising acts of suicide.
“When one reads about these things they can cause the Werther’s effect, that is, the copy cat effect,” he added.
To advance its efforts, Hussain said that the Caribbean Voice has several platforms that it is focused on. He disclosed that among the NGOs focus is to have measures put in place to decriminalise attempted suicide.
“We have been very vocal about that and the Minister [of Public Security] shares our concern about decriminalising suicide…so we would like to see some action on this because we have been talking about this for the longest time,” Hussain informed.
Another area that the NGO has been directing much passionate advocacy is the formation of a Sex Offenders Registry.
It is the expectation of the Caribbean Voice that the Sexual Offenders Registry will be one that will not only help officials be able to put a tag on the offenders but also to provide training to them too.
The aim, Hussain said, is to help to reform the offenders with the hope that they can be reformed and become law abiding citizen.
The local media reported that, “A 58-year-old woman is accusing Police in New Amsterdam of causing her great shame after she was allegedly raped by a home intruder.”
According to the woman, “the man broke into her home and raped her but when she reported the matter, the Police Officers referred to her as a “junkie” and a beggar, saying that no one would want to rape her.
She said that as a result, the Police at the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) at Central Police Station refused to carry out an investigation. In tears, the woman said she was not taken to the hospital but made to sit at the Police station. When she inquired why she was not being taken to be medically examined, she was told that there was no vehicle available. The woman said she remained at the CID department until midday but left after no one was forthcoming.”
Over the years The Caribbean Voice and other stakeholders and activists have been calling for police training and sensitization to ensure that all police officers know exactly how to handle cases of suicide and all forms of abuse.
In fact, this issue was recently raised by TCV in a meeting with the Personal Assistant to Public Security Minister, Khemraj Ramjattan. This particular example reinforces the urgent need for such training.
The bottom line is that who or what the woman may or may not be has nothing to do with her being raped and the job of the police is to display empathy while handling the complaint and to ensure that medical help is urgently provided as it is also a measure necessary to corroborate the complaint. We strongly urge that an investigation be carried out into the uncalled for behaviour of the police at that particular station and that strong action be taken to ensure there is no repeat.
Meanwhile The Caribbean Voice is quite willing to work with Police to ensure that appropriate training is carried ASAP, across Guyana so that incidents like this one would not happen again.
Apr 15, 2018: Financing for suicide prevention does not always come easy. This has moreover sometimes translated to some suicide prevention organisations barely being able to meet the costs associated with conducting related outreaches and workshops.
In order to ensure that it keeps its head above water in this regard, the Caribbean Voice – a- not-for-profit Non Governmental Organisation [NGO] – has engaged strategic measures to raise funds. These have included a fundraising raffle which the Caribbean Voice launched yesterday in collaboration with the Giftland Mall.
Already the Caribbean Voice has on display at the Giftland Mall, the prizes that are up for grabs on the raffle. “The reason why we wanted to ensure that the prizes are on display, is not only for the publicity that the raffle will attract but we want to assure people who are buying our tickets that the prizes are indeed there long before the raffle is drawn,” said the Caribbean Voice National Coordinator, Mr. Nizam Hussain.
The prizes include [First Prize] a flat screen television compliments of Comfort Sleep Mattress; [Second Prize] a small refrigerator compliments of Hussain’s television programme Coast to Coast; [Third Prize] a microwave oven compliments of the Team MMR radio programme; and 50 consolation prizes all valued $5000 or more.
The raffle is set to be drawn on July 27, 2018 and will be done live on Hussain’s TVG 28 television programme Coast to Coast.
The following day the list of winners will be published in the press. “We are prepared to hand out the prizes as soon as we get the responses,” said Hussain.
Tickets, he disclosed, can be purchased from any member of the Caribbean Voice, in all the department stores at the Giftland Mall, the Bagotstown M & M Snackette; on the Essequibo Coast at the W D Hotel and Mart on the Essequibo Coast, Imam Bacchus and Sons and at Patrick’s Shop, Golden Fleece, Essequibo Coast. Persons can also make contact with Hussain on 644-1152 or the Deputy Coordinator, Keshni Rooplall, on 697-9968.
According to Hussain, while the Caribbean Voice is aware that Government has been doing work towards suicide prevention, there are number of other NGOs that have also been doing work in this regard. He, however, noted that, “many times NGOs cry out that they are not getting funding and the Caribbean Voice is one of those NGOs. So we thought that if we did a raffle it would show to all donor agencies that we are making an effort with our volunteer members to raise some funds.”
It is expected, Hussain said that the funds raised from the raffle will position the Caribbean Voice to bring to reality all of its planned programmes for 2018. “We have a lot of programmes planned for this year [although], our members are volunteers, the logistics involves a lot of money for travelling, to provide the training documents and things like that, so we are appealing to Guyanese to support a worthy cause,” said Hussain.
He is convinced that the proactive work of the Caribbean Voice would in fact serve as motivation to donor agencies including government.
“We are not overly worried that they [government] might not find time to sponsor us but I do know too that they are doing a lot of work and the finances are difficult to come by,” Hussain added.
The Caribbean Voice (TCV) supports the Guyana Women Miners Organisation (GWMO) in urging Government to seriously consider using the Amber Alert system to help find missing children faster, and to ensure the greatest possible safety of such children. The experiences of nations that already have the Amber Alert show that it not only serves as a deterrent to those who would prey upon children, but also results in some perpetrators releasing abducted children after hearing the amber alert.
The fact that the success of the Amber Alerts depends on total cooperation between communities and the Police; and the utilization of broadcast media, digital billboards, Internet Ad exchanges, Internet service providers, Internet search engines, as well as wireless devices such as mobile phones could augur well for improved relations between the Police and the citizenship, which is currently far from what is desired. Such improved relations could also bolster crime fighting overall.
TCV believes that nations like the US, UK and Canada would be most willing to provide necessary assistance to ensure proper training, and implementing mechanism are in place for maximal efficiency. Also, there would be need for requisite legislation to provide a legal framework, and adequate resources to foster timely receipt and processing of information and rapid responses, among other requirements. Therefore, bearing in mind the experience of the motion to decriminalize attempted suicide, we strongly urge that the requisite legislation be a bipartisan effort, to ensure its passage into law.
TCV has been in the forefront of calling for mental health training for all police officers which would not only make them better prepared to handle cases involving mental health issues such as child abuse, domestic violence and suicide, but will also make them more aware of mental health issues affecting their colleagues.
This issue was also raised in a recent meeting with the personal assistant to Minister of Public Security Khemraj Ramjattan.
Also TCV recalls being contacted by the GDF, a few years ago, to conduct suicide prevention workshops for members of the GDF. Our follow up attempts to finalize arrangements for the workshops elicited no responses from the source that had made initial contact with us.
However, the issue of mental health workshops for the GDF members was also raised with Minister Ramjattan’s Personal Assistant in that recent meeting.
In an article in 2016, the US magazine, ‘Psychology Today’ pointed out that “Almost a quarter of (US) military members have symptoms of at least one mental health condition.”
In fact, research indicates that soldiers and police in general are more susceptible to mental health dysfunction than the general population. And Guyana would be no exception to this reality. Thus whether through The Caribbean Voice, or any other entity or combination of entities, all members of the GPF and the GDF should be provided with urgent mental health training on the one hand and enough psychologists (one psychologist, centrally located would be woefully inadequate) to ensure a proactive approach to diagnosing and addressing mental health issues.
Referencing Captain Orwain Sandy, one letter writer asked whether there are more ‘ticking time bombs’. The Caribbean Voice urges the establishment of a mechanism, in both the GPF and the GDF, to detect and defuse all such time bombs before further harm results.
THE Caribbean Voice understands the angst that permeated Freddie Kissoon’s column of April 6 in the Kaieteur News.
With reference to a particular sentence, to wit, “These crudities do not come from state power only – it takes in the complete gamut of society – judiciary, private sector, police, media, civil society, NGOs, local government structures, hospitals, etc.” As an NGO engaged in activism in Guyana, The Caribbean Voice is not aware of any crudities on our part.
However, since we are looking on from the inside, we may have missed any such crudities, so we humbly request Mr Kissoon to do point them out to us, so that we can give them due consideration and act accordingly, as we do place great emphasis on refinement and empathy enveloping our work.
The Gatekeepers’ Programme was launched under former Health Minister Dr. Leslie Ramsammy to train lay counsellors, individuals who would possess the skills and knowledge to be proactive first responders in tackling suicide and abuse. A number of persons who were trained under this programme indicated to The Caribbean Voice that the programme was beginning to make an impact when it was dropped, after Dr. Ramsammy was replaced by Dr. Bheri Ramsarran as Health Minister. Since the launch of our campaign in 2014 we have been lobbying for a return of this programme, and while the current government did promise to bring it back, a timeline to do so has not been set up.
Consequently we reached out to Seva International, an NGO based in India and they offered us a trainer for a period of one year. While we are not paying for the services of the trainer we need to cover her living expenses and the cost of the training programme for the year, estimated at just under US$32,000. Towards this end we have set up a gofundme account and are humbly requesting readers of this newspaper to help us realize the goal of implementing this training programme by donating (no amount is too small) to our gofundme account which can be accessed at https://www.gofundme.com/lay-counselor-training-program or through the gofundme link at the top of the cover (first) page on our website, http://www.caribvoice.org. We also implore you to please share the link as widely as possible and urge family, friends and colleagues to support our efforts.