Guyanese are not aware of the suicide hotline

Dear Editor,
The headline in one local newspaper read, ‘Father of 3 buckles after wife leaves home’. The article added that the 51-year-old man committed suicide by ingesting poison, after his wife walked out on him, taking their three children. Apparently, his sister had been spending time with him because he became depressed after his wife moved out.

Sadly, once again, here is a life that may have been saved if someone had only called the suicide hotline. But the assumption here is that family members would have been aware of the hotline and the services offered. Empirical evidence and our presence on the ground both indicate that Guyanese, in general, are not aware of the hotline and even those who are aware, are reluctant to call. This is why The Caribbean Voice has been consistently calling for comprehensive, ongoing nation-wide publicity, education and information dissemination about the hotline as well as for public release of data that indicates how the hotline has been successful in helping Guyanese, especially in saving lives, thus far, given that such data would be an impetus for others to use the helpline. TCV has also been calling on the police to ensure that in addition to priests, pandits and moulvis/imams are also available as people would generally be more comfortable speaking with a faith leader from their own faith. We also urge that the helpline have access to a network of counsellors and social workers nationwide so that those who so desire or need it can have access to face-to-face counselling.

Guyana Inter Agency Suicide Prevention Helpline Telephone numbers (+592) 223-0001, 223-0009, 600-7896, 623-4444, Email: guyagency@yahoo.com, BBM PINS: 2BE55649, 2BE56020 Twitter: guyanaagency; WhatsApp: +592-600-7896, 592- 623-4444; Facebook: Guyana Inter-agency Suicide Prevention Help Line. We urge all media in Guyana to please share this information on a regular and ongoing basis. Doing so can end up saving lives.

Meanwhile The Caribbean Voice and other stakeholders in Voices Against Violence strongly urge Guyanese to please make use of the hotline and always seek help as soon as warning signs for suicide are observed, or depression steps in. Do not take any words spoken (such as ‘me go tek wan dose poison,’  ‘me go kill meself’ or ‘me disgust wid life’) as a joke. And do not treat any unusual behaviour lightly or with disregard. Remember, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Another article that made recent headlines related to a woman in an abusive relationship, who is scared for her life because the police offered her almost no help when she reported threats by her husband.  This is the latest in a rising spate of abuse/murders of our womenfolk by men and clearly points to a number of deficits that have been highlighted by The Caribbean Voice and other social activist NGOs. These include lack of sensitivity training for most of the police force, a laissez faire attitude towards abuse by too many police officers, no support network for the abused so they often are forced to stay in abusive relationships, and official foot-dragging with respect to zero tolerance for abuse.

In any case, The Caribbean Voice and Voices Against Violence, join the police in urging our womenfolk to ensure that as soon as restraining orders are obtained, please let the police stations around know about this.  We also strongly suggest that they move their location to a safe place, probably among other family or relatives, or that they consider moving into a government safe house (home) if such exists. And we fervently appeal to lawyers in Guyana to set up a pro bono group to offer legal help to victims of abuse. This young woman can certainly do with some legal help before it is too late.

Also making the news, this time outside of Guyana, is a deadly online video game that encourages participants to undertake dangerous dares and self-harm. The Caribbean Voice and Voices Against Violence, appeal to the media, the Ministry of Education and stakeholders to promote awareness of this game and to provide teachers and other caregivers with strategies and tips to be on the alert, monitor their children’s online life and overall behaviour and ensure that they take necessary, proactive action to prevent any potential tragedy.

Finally, The Caribbean Voice and other stakeholders have been waging an ongoing battle against the propounding of myths and misinformation relating to suicide and suicide activism. We were thus rather disappointed that a young, weekly columnist for one of the local newspapers, in a column on suicide, drew conclusions and made uninformed comments that clearly indicate that the necessary research and reaching out to stakeholders were not done.

Thus, with respect to social issues like suicide and abuse we strongly urge media in general and columnists in particular to please get the facts and publish informed comments.

Yours faithfully,
Annan Boodram
The Caribbean Voice

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