Committee member lauds success of suicide prevention helpline

– 100% of callers assisted; no prank calls

Though reluctant to share information on the number of calls received by the inter-agency suicide prevention helpline since its launch in August, steering committee member Caitlin Vieira says it has been a success and continues to be manned 24 hours a day by trained personnel.
The intention to set up the helpline was first mentioned by Police Commissioner Seelall Persaud. According to the helpline’s Facebook page, “Anyone who is thinking of suicide, whose life feels unmanageable or just needs a little help, please call or text us. You call, we listen and help.”
Questioned on how many calls would have been received, Vieira said, “We think what’s important is that the helpline has 100% success rate thus far in the sense that all callers have been helped with their issues/situations, and have received weekly follow-up calls. They are all doing much better.”
She said the helpline has at least three shifts of four persons on duty during the 24-hour period and that everyone manning the various hotline numbers is trained to deal with the suicide-related calls.
“They will be there to answer and we will have to leave it to the callers to experience our reliability and consistency,” she said.
According to Vieira, who completed studies at both the Degree and Masters Levels in Psychology, like any new initiative, there will be difficulties.
“We experienced a call delay issue where the phone did not ring on our side unless it rang multiple times from the caller’s end. This has now been rectified. Also, the line has call waiting as it is our intention to answer every call at all times,” she said adding that occasionally a call cannot be put on hold to answer another and that in such a situation which can result in a call ringing out, the caller can try any of the other five hotline numbers, Facebook, twitter, WhatsApp, BBM or email.
She said how the persons manning the helpline respond to a suicide call depends on the situation. “If someone is calling because of sadness or depression, we will speak to them at the time and subsequently take them to one of our counsellors, who can make house calls in desperate situations. If it’s a medical condition, the callers go to doctors. If it’s drug abuse, they go to Pheonix Recovery Project. If it’s a domestic violence dispute, we can arrange for police or Help and Shelter intervention,” according to Vieira.
She said the helpline has been “lucky and efficient enough” to have had a solution for every caller so far.
Further, she stressed that after the appropriate referral, the helpline does weekly follow-up calls to the individual client while noting that the helpline has been taken seriously by the public and used wisely since it came into operation. There have been no prank calls thus far.
She said too that she and her team which comprises persons from the Mental Health Team of the Georgetown Public Hospital and the Ministry of Health, conducted the training. The training, involved a few weeks of theory and practical sessions. Vieira informed that the majority of persons monitoring the helpline have degrees/certificates in social work, psychology or related fields from the University of Guyana.
A follow-up training session could possibly occur in February, based on what Vieira said.
Asked about the location of the headline, she said that is irrelevant as only staff are allowed on the premises.
Vieira told Stabroek News that at the degree level her studies involved suicide. She said she did her Master’s Degree in the psychology of addiction, the second highest risk factor of suicide. According to Vieira, studies show that a substance abuser is six times more likely to attempt suicide than a non-substance abuser.
“I think the helpline has been doing great. The individuals who answer the phone are committed and passionate about what they do. I’m very proud to be a part of it,” she said.
In July, Persaud had said that in response to the country’s high suicide rate the force will be launching suicide helplines. He had informed that the suicide rate every year was almost similar to that of murders and fatal accidents. This, he had said, signals that there is a huge problem.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) after conducting a study named Guyana as the country with the highest suicide rate per capita.
The Inter Agency Suicide Prevention Help Line can be accessed through the following:
Telephone: 223-0818, 223-0009 and 223-0001
Mobile: 600-7896 or 623-4444
Email: moc.oohay@ycnegayug
BBM: 2BE55649 or 2BE56020
Twitter: @guyanaagency
Whatsapp: 600-7896 or 623-4444
Facebook: Guyana Interagency Suicide Prevention Help Line

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