News Americas, BRONX, NY, Thurs. Oct. 29, 2015: There is/has been a great deal of outrage over the apparent suicide of Guyanese rights activist, Zenita Temali, and rightly so.
But would that outrage still be there six months from now? Would those who are so outraged take even minimal action by either linking up with or supporting those NGOs working selflessly and often thanklessly on the ground to tackle suicide and related issues?
Last week, there were four suicides in Guyana, three not reported in the media. This week there has been at least one not reported in the media. And this is often the case almost every week, as it is the case with abuse. Should we not also be outraged about this? After all precious lives are being senselessly lost for want of someone to talk to, reach out and offer a hand and a heart. And many are victimized by abuse on a daily basis for want of someone standing up and saying ‘this is not acceptable’ and intervening to help the victim.
A recurring question being asked in this outpouring of grief and anger is: “Why did no on close to Zenita take any action?” The fact is that signs of abuse and its awful emotional and psychological aftermath seem to have been visible, according to the media. And on her Facebook page she also verbalized her agony in a clear and obvious cry for help.
Many who verbalized had very valid suggestions as to what should be done and urgently so, including utilizing social workers in a proactive manner throughout Guyana, instituting outreaches to every community and talking to the people to see how they can be involved and providing training as extensively as possible.
Clearly these are actions that the government is best placed to initiate but when those who expressed such views are challenged to become part of the lobbying process to bring pressure to bear on government to act they become aggressive, defensive and either tangent off or indulge in derogation of the messenger rather than respond to the message.
Now this is not an attempt to find fault or demonize anyone but there seems to exist a culture in Guyana that says ‘it is not my business.’
“Abuse and suicide are taboo and must be kept under tabs since they can bring shame if publicized,” and “if we say/do nothing it will go away.”
It is that it is this culture, more than anything else, that begs for trained personnel in every community who, as the eyes and ears can proactively act to prevent suicide and address abuse. The Gatekeepers’ Program and training provided by various entities in a number of different communities supposedly should have been those eyes and ears.
Facebook user, Nanda Boodhoo, says she was trained in the Gatekeepers’ Program and they were told that their names and contact numbers would be widely disseminated at hospitals and so on, but no contact has made by Ministry of Health since their training. I know of a number of others also so trained but snot utilized since then. Can the MOE compile a list and start using these persons? These are the persons who can be the eyes and ears in communities that will be proactive and take measures to start the process of interventions. And every community needs a number of such individuals.
Meanwhile, given this outpouring of outrage, dare we hope to see a continual flurry of individuals now reaching out to NGOs like The Caribbean Voice to join up and/or to ask ‘how can we help?’ Or will all this outrage disappear down the road and we return to ‘same old, same old’?
Incidentally the International Association for Suicide Prevention is holding a regional symposium from December 3 to 5 in the Cayman Islands, entitled ‘Protecting our Youth: Suicide Prevention in the Caribbean Region’ and it is hoped that Guyana would be significantly represented especially since suicide affects the young (15 to 25) more than any other age group. The workshop will also focus on gatekeepers training and reducing pesticides suicide, both of which are urgent requirements in Guyana.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Annan Boodram is founder of The Caribbean Voice and is ardently putting the spotlight on suicide in Guyana. For more join the conversationatwww.facebook.com/groups/suicideepidemic/ or CHECK out the group’s YouTube page.