On Sunday last, a resident of Nonpareil, East Coast Demerara hanged himself after killing his wife of 11 years, reportedly by strangulation. Vickram Ramdin was 31 years old and his wife Nandanie Mohan was 27. Their tragic end, relatives said, followed years of abuse and the consumption of alcohol by Ramdin appeared to be a factor as well.
Just a week before, on April 21, Port Kaituma couple Victor Peres, 62, and Pamela Martin, 39, were also victims of a murder/suicide where a gun was used. Peres had physically assaulted Martin, then shot her twice before turning the weapon on himself. There were reports of infidelity on the part of Martin.
In February, Victor Yearwood, 37, drove himself to a secluded spot in Berbice and consumed poison, killing himself. Before he did that he had tried forcing his wife Dr Lliana Yearwood, 43, a Cuban, to drink poison-laced coffee. When that did not work, he beat her in the head with a hammer and subsequently drove her to the hospital. She survived.
These incidents as well as several others in which women have died while their spouses/boyfriends were charged with murder serve to highlight not only the epidemic of domestic violence but the tragedy of mental illness not being placed on the front burner.
In the most recent incident, it was reported that the husband Vickram Ramdin was quiet, couldn’t seem to keep a job, drank excessively and seemed depressed. Just looking at that from a lay-medical standpoint would seem to indicate that Ramdin needed psychological intervention. He may not even have known that he needed it, but even if he did, where would he have gone for help?
Given that there were 111 suicides in Guyana last year, according to the police’s statistics and possibly double that number in attempts, where is the response? There should be signs, advertisements and flyers indicating where persons can access help if they or their loved ones are depressed or otherwise affected by mental illness; how they can be diagnosed and treated and how family members can deal with it. But this is not the case because these services are simply not available – certainly not to the average Victor or Vickram who might not be in a position to pay for these services via the private sector.
Committing suicide is the troubled mind’s way out of problems that seem insurmountable, problems that they believe they cannot share. The person who decides to remove himself from the world, but to take someone else with him, who he perceives to be part of his problem or who he blames for his problem, is someone who has stepped beyond the realm of reason.
Often, the exit is carefully planned. In November last year, Ramdat Lokhnauth, 48, shot and killed his wife Siromanie Lokhnauth, 42, while she slept and then turned the weapon on himself. However, before he did it he had called a relative over and he ensured that person would have access to the house.
In May 2013, Vijay Arjune, 24; killed his girlfriend Parbattie Mangroo, 19 and then ended his own life. The couple was discovered locked in Arjune’s parked car on the East Bank Demerara. In November 2011, Paul Mortimer, 54, shot his wife Rita King-Mortimer, 33, then killed himself at Kaikan where they were involved in mining. In each case the backstory indicated premeditation: the poison or weapon was procured and at hand and the victim in place.
Beyond making the headlines, such crimes, violent and cowardly at the same time have the power to cause tremendous ripples that may at some point even become a tsunami, particularly when children are involved. And their plight is often the same as their parents – there is no access to quality care. These are children who will need long-term psychological therapy, especially in cases where they would have witnessed the brutality of their parents’ demise.
Cognisant that violence begets violence, more emphasis should be placed on ensuring the mental well-being of children who witness or are affected by violence, or chances are, they too at some point will also break under stress and give in to turning the wheels of that vicious cycle. Texas-based clinical psychologist Dr George Simon, writing in Counselling Resource uses the analogy of a bridge collapsing. While it might be because of heavy vehicles passing over it, a closer look would reveal issues with the integrity of its construction – a well-built bridge would hardly crack under stress. It’s time to stop paying lip service to mental health.