Ministry trains 11 to man crisis hotline

Eleven persons concluded a crisis hotline training programme on Tuesday, which is part of a comprehensive programme to reduce the number of suicide attempts and deaths in addition to the development of an advance service system.

The training was a collaboration between the Ministry of Health and Dalhousie University and the CHIMO Crisis Services of Vancouver.

With the completion of this training, the Ministry of Health said in a press release, it is in a better position to respond to various social determinants that affect health, particularly those that contribute to violence, domestic and sexual abuse, alcoholism and those conditions that result in suicide attempts.

The persons trained so far are from the Health Ministry and the Georgetown Public Hospital. These persons, the release added, will be the core group of operators for this hotline.

These persons will be part of a ten-month pilot phase beginning September and ending June 2011. The ministry will officially open the hotline in four months “once everything is in place for the full operation of this service”. The programme is being piloted in Berbice.

The draft policies and procedures that will govern the crisis hotline have also been completed and will be finalised over the next two weeks by experts from the Dalhousie University, Halifax Canada. A complete manual that will govern the training for and operation of the hotline will also be drafted and finalised by the end of this week.

Also expected to be finished by the end of the week is an application form for potential volunteers. However, for the pilot phase of the project, it is expected that Communication, Social Work and Health Sciences students from the University of Guyana who are required to be attached to a community or voluntary service will act as volunteers as part of the completion of their programme.

The goal of the pilot project was to determine if it would be possible to learn more about the risk and protective factors specific to suicide in Guyana by means of the suicide follow-back study (or ‘psychological autopsy’) methodology.

In the release it was stated that Guyana averages about 180 suicides per year and the ministry said it is now required by hospitals to report any suicide attempts within 24 hours. There are at least 500 attempted suicides on an annual basis.

More specific aims of the pilot project include finding out family history and early childhood experiences, education, work, relationship history and mental disorders; also, substance abuse, previous thoughts or suicide attempts, recent stressful life events and other factors that may play a role in suicidal behaviour.

Meanwhile, the ministry in its release said that it is working with hotline services experts from Nova Scotia, Montreal and British Columbia in developing over the next two weeks the standard operating procedure for the crisis hotline service.

And, the release added, the ministry is also working in collaboration with GT&T to establish a state-of-the-art telephone system for the service. The telephone system will operate on the same basis as the 911 and 912 service for the police and fire service. The ministry and GT&T have already initiated efforts to establish the telephone service.

The ministry is also working with the Centre for Research and Intervention on Suicide and Euthanasia (CRISE) at the University of Quebec at Montreal and Syngenta to pilot a project for safe storage of pesticides such as gramoxone. This programme by the Ministry of Health will engage farmers on stricter and safer storage of pesticides as it aims to make pesticides less accessible, the release added.

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