Counselling must be mandatory for attempted suicide victims – Caribbean Voice Director
April 18, 2018: Although a situation may seem daunting and there may appear to be no way out, suicide should never be seen as a way out.
“Suicide is preventable; it is not an option…it is totally preventable,” insists National Coordinating Director of the Caribbean Voice, Mr. Nazim S. Hussain. In fact, he emphasises that the main focus of Caribbean Voice, a not-for-profit Non Governmental Organisation [NGO] headquartered in New York, is to help Guyanese understand not only that suicide is not an option, but that it is a mental health issue that can be treated much like several other illnesses.
“Suicide can be cured and for those who are not cured, it can be controlled,” said Hussain, even as he revealed that although there are some people with regular suicide ideations and others who might have thought about it only once, they all can access available treatment.
In order to curb suicide ideations, Hussain noted that persons must be able to accept that suicide is a mental health problem. He shared his conviction that mental health screening should be a necessity for all persons employed in sensitive areas, such as those who are required to bear arms.
“We have been saying this for a long time…such persons and those who deal with chemicals should be screened regularly,” said Hussain. He however assured that neither he nor Caribbean Voice can officially pronounce on such a need.
But Hussain asserted that the Caribbean Voice has been unyielding and will continue to advocate for all persons who would have attempted suicide to be subjected to mandatory mental health counselling sessions. The counselling process, according to Hussain, will have to go hand in hand with efforts at decriminalising suicide.
Currently, suicide is seen as a criminal act, but the Caribbean Voice has been consistently calling for it to be decriminalised. “This is necessary, because if you attempt suicide and you did not succeed, you will not receive the mental health counselling that you require,” said Hussain, as he insisted that attempted suicide should no longer be viewed as a criminal act, as it is in fact a cry for help resulting from a mental health breakdown.
However, Hussain, when asked if a person found guilty of committing a homicide and then attempts to commit suicide but fails, should be subjected to merely counselling, replied, “You should be penalised based on the statues of Guyana – the criminal law for committing a murder.” He noted that the onus is on legislators to discuss and decide whether there is need for the re-tweaking of existing laws governing such matters.
Even as the way forward is decided upon, Hussain is unwavering in his support for counselling as an immediate priority for persons who attempt suicide, even if they are the perpetrators of a homicide.
“Regardless of what is decided, the Caribbean Voice will continue to advocate for immediate requisite counselling for such persons. This is important, because a person without needed counselling could continue to do harm…they could harm themselves and other persons if they are on bail, or harm fellow prisoners if they are sentenced. This is why we are saying there must be mandatory counselling.”
But counselling shouldn’t merely be an option, Hussain asserted. He is of the conviction that there should be penalties if mandatory counselling sessions are missed. “This is an area for the Government, they have to decide what the penalties are, because they are the people who govern the operation of the Mental Health Unit,” Hussain added.
As a suicide and violence prevention advocacy organisation, the Caribbean Voice, according to Hussain, has dealt with more than 300 successful counselling cases, both locally and internationally. A total of four counselling cases are also currently engaging the attention of the organisation.
In order to further expand its reach, Hussain said that “we are always willing to either invite collaborations or collaborate with other organisations…we are always willing to collaborate with [like-minded] organisations like the Ministry of Public Health…‘The more the merrier’ is a slogan that is attracting motivation to collaborate,” he noted.
Guyana has toll free helpline to suicide prevention
April 17, 2018: A toll free suicide helpline is currently available to persons who are in need of immediate counselling. The hotline number  600-7896 is one made available by one of the two local telephone companies – Digicel Guyana.
This means that persons, even if they do not have credit in their mobile devices, can have access to a counsellor who can offer them professional help. This development has been especially lauded by the National Coordinating Director of Caribbean Voice, Mr. Nazim Hussain.
Registered in New York, the Caribbean Voice is a not-for-profit Non-Governmental Organisation [NGO] involved in anti-violence activism with a special focus on suicide prevention and anti-abuse that has a major focus in Guyana.
Hussain noted that the move by Digicel to render its support to offer the toll free service is a very laudable move. “I didn’t even know that there was a toll free helpline until a recent visit to the Minister of Public Security’s office. I knew there were helpline numbers but it was brought to my attention then, that the Digicel number on the list of helpline numbers is a toll free number.
“This is something that we have been calling for, for a long time,” said Hussain.
This was required in recognition of the fact that “some people do not have money to pay for a call when they are having suicide ideations,” Hussain noted.
He added, “We have also been calling for all the helplines that are manned by the Ministry of Public Health be toll free too. The Ministry of Public Health has said that they are willing to work with us on that [and] we have requested that they use their clout to broker this with the phone companies and other people who can provide free credit.”
Other helpline numbers are  – 223-0001, 223-0009 and 623-4444. The toll free number [600-4444] and 623-4444 are also active Whatsapp numbers that persons in need of counselling can access.
Earlier this year Minister of Public Security, Khemraj Ramjattan, said that Government is not opposed to the introduction of a toll-free suicide helpline. But the Public Security Minister even then said that while a move in this direction would be tactical, Government was not in the best of position to independently fast-track its implementation.
Minister Ramjattan also revealed that he is willing to throw any possible support behind individuals or organisations willing to bring such an initiative to fruition.
He, however, noted that “the first step is to know who is behind such an idea because I would want to know if they have good or bad intentions. There are some people who might want it for their own profiteering purpose,” speculated Minister Ramjattan.
Ramjattan’s solicited remarks came on the heels of calls for the implementation of toll-free suicide helplines from the Caribbean Voice.
Recognising the Caribbean Voice as a credible NGO, the Public Security Minister said that he is ready and willing to lend support wherever possible. “I would support Caribbean Voice; they have done some work in Guyana but I want to see them going down on the ground doing much more work,” the Minister had noted.
Hussain disclosed that while the Caribbean Voice has not been in the business of highlighting the extent of its work, there is record to substantiate that it has been reaching people across the country and has worked in collaboration with the Public Health Ministry and other organisations too. In fact, he disclosed that Caribbean Voice is currently engaged in offering professional services to a few individuals.
Speaking on the need for toll free helplines earlier this year too, Hussain said, “It is high time that moves are made to introduce a toll free suicide helpline to the Guyanese public.”
From all indication, Digicel heard the call and responded by causing its number to be toll free.
“Awareness is a stepping stone to saving lives” – Advocate
April 17, 2018: 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.
Police Behaviour Uncalled For
April 16, 2018: 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.
Caribbean Voice unveils prizes for
suicide prevention fundraiser raffle
April 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.
We support Amber Alert in Guyana
April 13, 2018: 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.
Needed – a mechanism to defuse ticking time bombs
April 10, 2018: 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.
Please indicate crudities
April 7, 2018: 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.
Help needed to implement
April 3, 2018: 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.
Suicide prevention is two-fold
March 27, 2018: IN THE context of Guyana, suicide prevention is no longer about awareness building since no one can argue that Guyanese are not fully aware of suicide in all its ramifications. And telling Guyanese to ‘say no to suicide’ actually has absolutely no impact on suicide prevention simply because it offers no viable suicide prevention strategies.
Suicide prevention is two-fold – train people to develop high self-esteem and strong and extensive coping skills so they can handle challenges and stress, and ensure they have support networks around them. In the latter respect, lay counselors are critical as they proactively act to get the necessary help once they observe warning signs, which they are trained to do. Actually The Caribbean Voice (TCV) was able to access a lay counselor
trainer from abroad but unfortunately we do not possess the required financial resources to accommodate that person for a year in Guyana. We are willing to pass the relevant info to the government hoping that they can make this happen. We guarantee that the cost would be a fraction of what the government would pay if they were to contract such a service.
Also, the second level in a support network is easy and quick access to counselors and psychologists, currently not a reality in Guyana. In this respect we join child activist, Nicole Cole and others in asking whether child psychologists are available to meet the needs as stipulated in the Juvenile Justice Bill, that children who are apprehended by police must undergo psychological evaluation. If that is not the case, as we suspect, then are urgent actions being taken to rectify the situation?
Meanwhile, TCV continues to lament the very limited, highly selective manner in which counseling is offered by the government. We are thus calling for a policy that would ensure that all suicidal persons and all suicide survivors, as well as all abused persons have access to counseling. And we ask again whether the 30 psychologists who graduated from the American University for Peace Studies in December 2017, have/are being appropriately employed by Government?
As well, we applaud the upcoming training sessions for probation officers to improve their ability to offer counseling. May we suggest that selected individuals from the health care industry as well as selected teachers be also included in this program? Such inclusion would be much more cost effective than to hold separate training and will simultaneously expand the reservoir of persons with some basic knowledge about counseling, no matter how limited. We also again repeat our appeal that teachers be facilitated to participate in the Psychology Programme at the University of Guyana, as far as is possible, as was done when a similar programme was launched in the 1970s.
Meanwhile, we continue to be concerned by the carefree attitude adopted by far too many with regards to suicide ideation. Over and over and over we hear or read about loved ones and caregivers not seriously taking comments expressing suicidal intention, and saying that they think the victim was joking or that they had heard that so many times that they simply disregarded it.
Here is an example relating to a recent suicide death: “After turning the television down, he asked her to get him a cup of tea, and when she came back with it, he reportedly told her, “Dis guh be de last day yuh guh see me”…Having heard words to that effect before, she wordlessly turned and headed to bed. But at around 04:55hrs when she got up to prepare to go to work, she heard Kumar vomiting at the back of the house.”
Kumar subsequently died as a result of the ingestion of poison. Thus, instead of building awareness and ‘saying no to suicide’ efforts, resources should be employed to bring about critical changes by emphasising that citizens must always act on suicide ideation instead of treating it as a joke and/or not taking it seriously, and by debunking the myths and eliminating the taboo that currently surround counseling so that citizens would be comfortable accessing counseling, however it may be available.
We do understand the lack of resources but one way around it is to piggyback: health care workers can chat with patients, a short module can be added to various training programmes, government officials can include messages in various public presentations, government and private sector ads can include short messages, similar messages can be included on billboards – physical and electronic, broadcast media can be asked to offer PSAs, sports, cultural and other entities can also be requested to share messages with their members and at public presentations and so on. In effect political will and concerted organization are needed. In this endeavor TCV is willing to collaborate with any entity – public or private sector. We can be reached at email@example.com or via phone at 718-542-4454 (North America) and 664 1152/646-4649 (Guyana).
Depression is like a parasite
March 23, 2018: The Caribbean Voice (TCV) agrees with Ms Bonita Harris that Ms. Alecia Patterson displayed ‘courage in speaking frankly and publicly on the depression she suffered’, especially given that Guyanese are very reluctant to speak out about their experiences with mental health issues on the whole.
Many of our members have or are currently dealing with depression but the sad reality is that too many Guyanese are unaware of the condition even when they personally face it. As someone who has lived with depression all my life I can say with certainty that depression is like a parasite…It is difficult to dislodge, even when life conditions seem to indicate that there are no grounds for it. It stays hidden, always emerging to the fore when circumstances feed it.
Until TCV became involved in our current anti-violence campaign I was woefully unaware of exactly what I was facing. Now, however, there is self-awareness and thus an understanding that enables me to wrest control.
But each second, each minute, each hour and each day is a struggle not to give in; a struggle to stay engaged even in life’s fundamental needs such as maintaining basic health and hygiene, staying focused on errands and goals, remaining socially and creatively engaged, and a struggle to not let the darkness become overpowering and order transformed into a frightening, endless maze.
However, as strong as a person can be, there is always this niggling fear that at any instant the will can become weakened enough to plunge one into a bottomless pit from where there is no upward surge, and finality steps in. It is in this pit that even those with literally everything – fame, power, wealth, celebrity status et al – engage in that last fatal act.
Since the launch of our anti-violence campaign, TCV has been placing tremendous emphasis on depression, which is not only one of the two states (the other being anxiety) that directly lead to suicide, but which is also a growing problem worldwide. Only recently it was revealed that depression has been on the increase even in developed nations like the US. And we all know that it certainly is an increasing problem in Guyana and other developing nations.
Consequently while awareness building is critical, NGOs like TCV can only do so much. Thus, in addition to the need for more work in this respect by the government, the media also has an important role to play. More articles like the one about Ms. Alecia Patterson are needed and more people are urgedto come forward and share their experiences, either with the media or with NGOs like The Caribbean Voice. Confidentially is always guaranteed.
The Caribbean Voice can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or via phone at 718-542-4454 (North America) and 664 1152/646-4649 (Guyana). Please contact us so we can help you help yourself or your loved ones.
TCV IN THE MEDIA
TCV IN THE MEDIA
ABUSE IS NOT LOVE NOR IS IT EVER JUSTIFIED. WE UNDERSTAND THAT IT
MAY BE DIFFICULT TO WALK AWAY
BUT AT LEAST SEEK HELP. THINK
ABOUT YOUR CHILDREN AND/OR
YOUR FUTURE. YOU DO HAVE OPTIONS.