Data relating to suicide hotline should be made public

Dear Editor,

The Caribbean Voice (TCV) notes the disclosure by Caitlin Vieira, “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.” However, one of the very major, recurring problems, in Guyana, is the lack of statistical data to enable analysis and evaluation. Thus we would hope that Ms Vieira is aware that her disclosure about 100% success rate, means absolutely nothing unless contextualized with data.

As far as we are aware, there has been mention in the media of only one intervention. So we are calling upon Ms Vieira and her group to present data that indicate the number of calls received; the range of issues called about; the number of interventions, particularly with respect to suicide; and the geographic range covered by these calls.

The release of such data would not only serve to shore up Ms Vieira’s assertion about 100% success rate, but also instil confidence in the pubic about the effectiveness of the hotline. This public confidence is much needed given that the police force is a far way from eliciting a significant degree of trust and confidence in the public at large.

Ms Vieira also states, “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.” The Caribbean Voice strongly suggests that at least one additional landline number be added to ensure all calls are taken. After all the issue is about saving lives and it is well known that anyone who is suicidal may well not make a second call if the first call does not result in an immediate response. Consideration can also be given to transferring calls to other entities that may be willing to handle them, as an immediate voice at the end of the line is an absolute necessity for anyone seeking help.

Incidentally, we must point out that the interagency facebook page is actually a ghost page with absolutely no information on the hotline or the work of the committee. Same deal also for the twitter page. TCV’s Bibi Ahamad had spoken to Ms Vieira about this in October, but the situation still remains the same. Perhaps the committee should have a few persons manage these sites so they can regularly post and tweet, and most definitely the numbers/contact info should be prominently posted and pinned on the FB page and regularly tweeted. The Caribbean Voice would be pleased to do so if that’s the only option.

Meanwhile, The Caribbean Voice highly commends the police and those who man the hotline for the work they are doing. We hope that in time the hotline can be expanded into a national network, both with respect to taking calls as well as making referrals. We also commend the Stabroek News for publishing this article on the hotline and the media in general for its work in bringing about awareness and providing information about suicide, abuse and related issues.

Also, we strongly suggest that the committee handling the hotline, reach out to all media throughout Guyana and persuade them to publish or broadcast the hotline numbers/contact info at least once a week, if not more frequently, as a public service. And we suggest that overtures be made to GT&T and Digicel to persuade them to send out, to all their mobile phone customers, weekly messages with the hotlines and tips on suicide prevention, anti-abuse and related issues. As well, we urge the committee to touch base with the business community and persuade them to publicize the hotline and prevention messages on their outdoor billboards and electronic advertisements.

The bottom line is not only that every little bit helps, but also that suicide prevention (and prevention of abuse, sex crimes and so on) is everybody’s business.

Yours faithfully,
Annan Boodram
The Caribbean Voice

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