It is the walk not talk that makes the critical difference

Dear Editor,

The Caribbean Voice (TCV) notes Ms Annie Baliram’s missive captioned ‘I have advanced a fundamental hypothesis on suicide’ in Stabroek News of September 11 in response to our corrections to inaccuracies and oversights in her original letter on suicide in Guyana. TCV has no interest in any ongoing debate with Ms Baliram and certainly has no intention of nitpicking, engaging in semantics or arguing in the abstract while the suicide contagion stalks our nation. For us, time, efforts and resources are best deployed in doing what is of paramount importance, saving lives and empowering people.

Suffice it is for us to say that The Caribbean Voice has total confidence in our 70 plus volunteers and support specialists, with a range of skills and expertise, including psychologists, clinical counsellors, researchers, pollsters, sociologists, mental health professionals, medical personnel and social and community activists. Furthermore our suicide prevention activism is grounded in numerous research and studies as well as anecdotal and empirical evidence on suicide in Guyana, all of which are in sync with respect to all the significant indicators. And the results of our three years plus of activism have affirmed the prevailing literature, including that emanating from international institutions like WHO and PAHO.

So while we look forward to the global impact of Ms Baliram’s revolutionary ‘model’ we will continue to educate, enlighten, advocate, lobby, train, counsel, network, engage in outreach and foster collaboration, while debunking myths and misinformation, providing coping skills, developing self esteem, arming Guyanese with the wherewithal to identify warning signs and take action proactively, ensuring that all who so need have access to counselling, and thereby gradually driving back the scourge of suicide.

In fact, over the past three years The Caribbean Voice has invested about five and half million dollars in suicide prevention and anti-abuse in Guyana. We have stretched every dollar to the maximum since we have no overheads whatever and our leadership fund, out of pocket, are costs associated with our work.

During this time we have engaged in over 300 successful counselling cases; held over 20 workshops that trained over almost 2,000 persons, including hundreds of students, and engaged in another 20 outreaches that networked with a few thousand persons. We also held more than 50 meetings; attended over 25 different fora, widely disseminated information (articles, letters, interviews and posts) across numerous media platforms, traditional (in more than fifty media globally, including New York City’s Daily News, the BBC, Vice News, ITV and Al Jazeera), and online (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google, Linkedin, Pinterest, Tumblr, Youtube) reaching millions; engaged in lobbying for a range of measures with the suicide helpline coming into being (promises to place counsellors in schools and to develop a model to tackle pesticide suicide were made but not delivered); commissioned two surveys and held four press conferences.

As well we held the first and only truly National Stakeholders’ Conference on Suicide and Related Issues that was attended by over 70 stakeholders. Also TCV partners in Voices Against Violence, which organizes the annual Anti-Violence Candlelight Vigil that, in two years, say, 500 plus candlelight vigils have been held across Guyana. And we launched the annual El Dorado Awards, which have so far, honoured over 30 affirmation agents on the social landscape with another 18 to be honoured this year. Our work has a national reach and we have established regional sub groups in six regions with the remaining four to be set up next year. In recognition of our work we were invited by the local UN representative to make a presentation at a special session of Guyana’s parliament.

Moreover, we are bolstered by the tremendous success thus far in reducing the suicide rate from 44.2 per 100,000 to 30.6 per 100,000 and by the increasing numbers of Guyanese who reach out to TCV and other entities to seek counselling for self and others, as the taboos relating to suicide and mental health succumb to the selfless work of increasing numbers of suicide prevention NGOs and activists. We are also heartened by the increasing numbers of stakeholders ‒ local government administrations, political parties, businesses, media, NGOs, FBOs, CBOs, special interest groups and even government agencies ‒ who put aside various divides to join hands on this journey.

Again we commend Ms Baliram’s passionate rhetoric and invite her to transform that passion for the talk into a zeal for the walk, because at the end of the day it is the walk that really makes the critical difference.

Yours faithfully,

Annan Boodram

The Caribbean Voice

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