Dear Editor,
The recent arrest of a young person for attempted suicide drives the need to criminalize suicide. It is a matter of reiteration that without the politicization of this issue, decriminalization would have been a good deal since 2016.
Can we also point out again, last year, that the International Association for Suicide Prevention had embraced the call for suicide to be decriminalized everywhere in the world where this is still not the case. And so TCV hopes that the intention to achieve this, expressed recently by the Health Minister, would finally come to fruition.
Many nations have ordered that anyone who utters a suicidal ideation or displays signs of suicide is reported immediately, so that that person can be provided with the help they need. Voice of the Caribbean (TCV) believes it is time for Guyana to join those nations. Of course, mandatory reporting would mean a national campaign to sensitize the population about warning signs and the ideal language of suicide, as well as emphasizing that no sign or idea should be treated as a joke, no matter how many times an individual may have displayed the same thing, and no matter how drunk a person may be when exhibiting the same.
In addition, given that ingestion of poison is the primary means of suicide in Guyana, we strongly urge that immediate action be taken to mitigate the effects of ingestion poisoning. In 2016, the then Government had announced plans to establish poison control centers in different areas across the country. Those plans are still on paper.
Meanwhile, in a May 2019 discussion with TCV, Toxicologist Verrol Simmons, of the University of the West Indies, Trinidad and Tobago Augustine Campus, informed that he was ready to travel to Guyana to provide training in relation to possible actions it is taken to immediately mitigate the effects of poisoning when seeking medical assistance.
According to Dr. Simmons, he was told in 2014 by a representative of the Government of Guyana that he would actually be facilitated to provide that training, but the invitation was never realized. That invitation should now be sent. This training can be part of a pesticide suicide safety and prevention program. Many such successful programs have been implemented around the world, with the Sri Lankan Hazard Prevention Model, supported by the World Health Organization, heavily touched on. We suggest implementing a “train the trainer” program in both, and then those who are trained can then stay out across the country to deliver the training.
With regard to media guidelines for reporting suicide, training sessions for journalists have been held in Guyana, but the effects of such training do not exist in media reporting. So, for example, the media still writes ‘commit suicide’, instead of dying by suicide or suicide. This is just one example of self-inappropriate language still used by the media. In addition, photos of suicide victims are still being published in some cases; suicide correspondence continues to be somewhat stunned and given too much prominence; the privacy concerns of victims and their families are still not considered; the inclusion of prevention messages and appropriate information in all correspondence is still limited.
The best media guidelines for reporting suicide – MINDFRAME – have been produced in Australia, and TCV suggests that allied Government ministries collaborate with the press association to make this training permeable, and then set up a monitoring committee to work towards appropriate action. media guides, as Trinidad & Tobago, for example, have done.
There is also a need for an upgraded support mechanism that includes counseling in general, instead of optional. In addition, a national campaign needs to be launched to make the public aware of this mechanism, and how to access the aid without having to jump through hoops.
Again, it is suggested that the suicide hotline be revamped, taking cues from the recently launched domestic violence helpline, including easy and fast access to counseling, trained telephone responders, and contacts with the Police to ensure that help is quickly available to those in need. Of critical importance is the need to build trust in those who operate the helpline and those providing the necessary counseling and other interventions, and ensure that the callers are comfortable trusting in whoever is assigned to help them.
Finally, as with the domestic violence helpline, we encourage that a suicide message line with an appropriate message is also sent to all mobile phone users on a regular basis.

Voice of the Caribbean

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