The Facebook group, The Suicide Epidemic (https://www.facebook.com/groups/suicideepidemic/https://www.youtube.com/user/ab10460/feed?view_as=public) realizes that there have been/are quite a number of initiatives relating to suicide prevention that, if located in a national, sustainable framework, can significantly impact suicide prevention within a short span of time. Perhaps the National Committee for the Prevention of Suicidal Behavior (NCPSC) or the National Committee for Suicide Prevention (NCSP) that were launched in 2007 ought to be resuscitated or revitalized as the case may be. We strongly suggest that such a body be headed by a mental health professional and comprise all possible stakeholders, including related government agencies/ministries and the political opposition, as well as NGOs, especially those that are national in character and draw their membership from throughout the nation and/or those that have been doing significant work in suicide prevention and related social issues. This central framework can also create a roster of all entities, locally and internationally, that are already working or desirous of working to address suicide and related social issues, and an annual calendar of related activities so as to ensure maximization of efforts spread out as widely as possible.
Meanwhile, we applaud the move to set up a suicide hotline as recently spelt out by the Police Commissioner, and we sincerely hope that the logistics would be put in place to ensure that the hotline is always accessible and manned on a 24-hour basis. In this respect we urge a reconsideration of the Gatekeeper’s Programme, which would create a national network of responders who can be accessed by those who call the hotline, as a follow up to speaking with hotline counsellors. We understand that this programme, which was launched with quite a bit of fanfare, has been shelved even though it had begun to create an impact.
Additionally, we strongly suggest that the Cops and Faith Community Network (CFCN)
initiative be extended to all Guyana as is being considered by the government, especially given its possibilities for problem solving and community building.
Furthermore, the police force’s plans to sensitize officers to domestic violence, gender-based violence, sexual offences and trafficking in persons should also be ongoing and eventually encompass every officer. In toto, this approach will definitely reduce suicides, in addition to achieving its other set goals.
Thirdly, in the light of a number of incidents relating to orphanages and institutions that house the young, such as the NOC, we urge the relevant ministries to set up mechanisms to ensure both protection of these young people as well as fostering of the appropriate environments. Perhaps setting up community boards or community-based committees/councils to oversee and assist these institutions might serve to ensure safe and nurturing environments and might also lead to garnering more resources to such institutions.
Fourthly, we applaud the various faith-based initiatives that have taken place recently, such as the ones held last month by Freedom Health Ministries and Bethel Gospel Hall. Ditto for the work of NGOs such as the Guyana Foundation and the diaspora-based, NJASM Humanitarian Mission spearheaded by Pandit Suresh Sugrim and CADVA, spearheaded by Sukree Boodram and Dianne Madray (our apologies for not being able to tabulate a comprehensive list here). While we note the presence of some government involvement at some of these events we believe that in the future all these initiatives should include the presence of related government agencies, not only for the purposes of coordination but also with respect to follow up.
Fourthly, we hope that The Guyana Foundation-fostered research by Ms Serena Coultress of Maastricht University in the Netherlands, will be made public and used to drive planning and implementation, especially given that the stats we cited in our last letter were old, even though they were the only ones publicly available.
Finally, in keeping with the multi-sectoral approached outlined by Health Minister, Dr Bheri Ramsaran, and adopted by the police force, we hope that sensitization would be built into planning at all levels. For instance, local businesses and professionals in every community can help to underwrite billboards and banners created by artists and artisans within the communities themselves. Also, through the auspices of the Ministry of Education, schools can arrange workshops/seminars for parents and teachers, efforts that would supplement the Health and Family Life Education Programme currently in effect for students. And through the efforts of central religious institutions such as the Guyana Council of Churches, the Dharmic Sabha and the Central Islamic Organization of Guyana, outreaches can be made to every church, mandir and mosque.
We are quite willing to reach out to others and together provide what assistance is possible, and we intend to touch base with various government agencies in the near future to explore this possibility. Meanwhile we laud the press statement on suicide put out by APNU on June 6 and hope that APNU too will become a significant stakeholder in the campaign to address this scourge that is destroying valuable human resource, especially our young.