Mental health unhealthiness

first_imgDear Editor,He posted a heart wrenching appeal, sometime after midnight, a few days on the Face book page of The Caribbean Voice (, asking for help because he was having familiar feelings of the kind that had driven him to attempt suicide once before.Immediately, some members of the group sprang into action. As we engaged him in chat, someone from the Mental Health Unit of the Ministry of Health joined in and quickly phone-messaged a counsellor. It took a while, but eventually the doctor called and set up an appointment for him at the Georgetown Public Hospital, at eight 08:00h. We continued to engage him until he went to bed sometime after two that same morning, promising that he would do nothing foolish, but instead would keep the appointment the following day.As daylight chased away darkness, he informed us that he was keeping his appointment, thankful that he was getting professional help. But his arrival at the hospital created confusion and frustration as no one could direct him to the doctor he was seeking. Frustration was turning to resignation as he texted that he was leaving and going to the seawall to end it all. As one member of The Caribbean Voice kept him engaged, the same personnel from the Mental Health Unit, who had put him in connection with the doctor, hurried to the hospital, some two hours plus after the 19-year-old had arrived. Yet it took that person almost another hour before she could connect him with the help he needed.The young man was given attention but refused to stay over for observation, as he was under the popular misconception that only ‘mad’ people are held back at the psych ward and he most definitely was not mad. And while he initially agreed to keep the subsequent appointment some three days later, he later changed his mind. So, The Caribbean Voice continues to engage him, as we usually do with regards to all our cases, hoping that we can still persuade him to take the additional counselling.This experience begs the following questions:1.Why was it impossible for hospital staff to direct the young man to psych ward? Surely this information should be available at reception desks and known by all staff?2.Why was there no mental health professional to meet with the young man until close to 11:00h even though he had an 08:00h appointment? Surely the staff at the mental health unit knows that delays and consequent frustration can concretise the final act of suicide?In any case the young man is in an upbeat mood, since he found a temporary job, as his lack of employment was a trigger for his suicidal mindset, especially since it clearly created tension between him and his parents with whom he lives, and for whom he feels responsible. And, having once before attempted suicide, suicide ideation came very easy to him.Frighteningly, however, is that youth unemployment is 40 per cent according to the Caribbean Development Bank, a state of affairs that is fertile ground for youth suicide ideation and actual suicides, and may well already be impacting both, given that so many suicides go unreported. Thus our concern that government seems to be going back on its election campaign promise to provide jobs for the youth.While we applaud the efforts being undertaken thus far, especially by the Police and the First Lady, we strongly urge that these be extended nationwide, be as inclusive as possible and be followed by job placements, perhaps in collaboration with the various business associations.We suggest too that all high schools implement summer, work study internships for students moving into fifth forms and perhaps extend this to weekends/evenings where possible during the fifth form years. A job placement programme is also needed for all tertiary level educational institutions.Alarmingly too, the myth that dealing with counselling and the psych ward or the psychiatric institution means someone is ‘mad’, holds tremendous sway in Guyana and that may be why transparent and obvious warning signs are ignored by caregivers and loved ones.Far too often, after a suicide, we hear or read that so and so had talked about wanting to take his or her life but those around him/her thought he/she was joking and/or did not take that person seriously. Thus TCV strongly urges the Ministry of Health to embark on a sustained education campaign to combat this myth.As well, we urge the Ministry of Health to make sure that mental health professionals are available 24/7 at public hospitals, especially where there are psych wards and that mechanisms, including signage providing directions, be put in place to make access to such wards easy and quick for anyone seeking help, given that delays and consequential frustration/anger can lead to loss of lives.This particular case also brings to the fore the suicide hotline. Empirical and anecdotal evidence indicates that Guyanese are hardly utilising the hotline and we do recall that an appeal last year for figures to be released was met with deafening silence in spite of claims of its success.The Caribbean Voice has been publicising the hotline via our self-esteem pledge which has been distributed to schools and communities in many parts of Guyana. However, it is critical that the Ministries of Public Security and Health embark on an ongoing, national campaign to make the suicide hotline a household item and to encourage citizens to make use of it with the promise of absolute confidentiality every time. As well as statistical and related evidence proving its extensive use and success ought to be made public, as this will bolster widespread confidence in its effectiveness. After all, it would have been quicker for the young man to call the hotline and get help than to reach out to TCV via Face book.On the issue of confidentiality, TCV has also found that too many Guyanese are still sceptical of counsellors and counselling because of claims that confidentiality is not often kept. In fact, the grapevine revealed that a suicide prevention activist, who committed suicide last year, might have done so partly because the confidentiality she was promised was breached.That is why the promise of confidentiality with regards to the suicide hotline is so absolutely critical. And perhaps that is why, far too often, those seeking help emphatically refuse counselling in Guyana and/or by Guyanese, when we place that on the table for them.Also, this case and many others that TCV has handled over the last two years, make it clear that mental healthcare has to be national in scope and easy of access. Thus TCV reiterates its call for mental healthcare to be integrated into the physical health care system, per the recommendation of the World Health Organisation, for nations like Guyana. And we urge that a look be taken at the Shri Lankan Model in this respect, as that nation has very successfully implemented this integration. For the record our interventions are pro bono and while we do have our own complement of counsellors we also do sometimes refer cases to various counsellors in Guyana with whom we have developed relationships, and who also offer their services free of charge to our referrals. Incidentally, not all of our cases are related to suicide. In fact we have handled domestic violence, sex abuse and rape, child abuse and alcoholism cases as well, and while most of our cases are from Guyana we have dealt with cases in a number of other countries as well, since people seek us out through our Internet and social media presence.Sincerely,The Caribbean Voicelast_img read more

Lest we forget the development sabotage

first_imgDear Editor,It seems like many moons ago Guyana had its first minority Government, as such, is the intensity of living in Guyana over the past two and a half years. Indeed, the almost daily eruption and unearthing of a new scandal, scheme, corrupt practice or policy to unleash untold suffering upon the populace, makes the very daily existence in Guyana, an unprecedented challenge and more than a mouthful to swallow. It is why I find it necessary to pen this letter to remind Guyanese of an administration which, when in Opposition, bullied its way against a Ramotar-led People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Administration, and, continues to bully the people of Guyana, every step of the way.The current Administration enjoys catapulting itself onto a pedestal and casting judgement on the PPP Government with the insinuation that the development agenda being pursued by the party, under the framework of the Low-Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) was somehow subpar. Editor, even an ex-facie examination of the LCDS would reveal its superiority to the Green State Development Strategy (GSDS); a document which is supposed to be the development plan of Guyana until 2030 which contains glorified narrative and no underpinning mechanism of economic or social transformation.It is indeed true that energy is one of the most important sources of economic transformation in any developing country – Guyana is no different. Any attempt to stymie any project which aids in the improvement of the energy sector, must be seen as a position which is diametrically opposing to progress and antithetical to development. Unfortunately for the people of Guyana, this antithetical position was recurrent in the Tenth Parliament of Guyana, propagated by the one-seat majority APNU/AFC Opposition.Editor, three actions, which should not be seen as mutually exclusive, must be examined to understand how the APNU/AFC has single-handedly underdeveloped the energy sector and inhibited improved efficiency. These are: 1) the anti-Amaila Falls Hydropower Projects stance; 2) the inciting of protests in Linden on the regularising of the electricity rates and; 3) the inability to conceive a viable replacement on the same scale as the Amaila Falls Project. I will briefly examine each.The anti-Amaila Falls Project stance could probably be remembered as the greatest sabotage on Guyana’s development in the post-structural adjustment period. Editor, this project was internationally lauded by development experts, engineering specialists, international agencies and local experts.I cannot overemphasise the economic benefits which would have accrued from cheaper electricity but improved Private Sector competitiveness in international markets; greater disposable income for consumers and; the ability to attract more foreign investors to our shores were among some of the most immediate. Despite pleas by President Ramotar and other senior PPP members, the APNU/AFC remained steadfast in their anti-development position.The inciting of violence in Linden when the regularisation of electricity rates was initiated in the Budget speech, represents another sore point in recent Guyanese history. Regularising the electricity rates in Guyana would have represented the first step to ensuring that GPL, which suffers from inherent inefficiency due to line losses, moved one-step closer to second-best efficiency. This however, Editor, was not to be.Perhaps the greatest injustice stricken onto the Guyanese people is the woeful intellectual infertility by the APNU/AFC to conjure a viable alternative to the Amaila Falls Project which would provide the same magnitude of power. The Windfarm Project which at its peak is supposed to generate 30 per cent of the power of the Amaila Falls Project, is strife with corruption from the very outset. Moreover, we are almost at the end of 2017 and halfway through this Administration’s term in office and no substantive progress has been made on this project.I would offer to close by reminding the Guyanese public that even through the trying time of development sabotage, PPP Administration grew the economy by 13.8 per cent over a three-year period – sublime economic growth by any measure.In the absence of such strong performances, the economic growth over the three-year period would have been a lackluster six per cent approximated. It is a small wonder therefore why the Guyanese populace complain of trying economic times and a visionless government. Editor, almost a decade later and we are still no closer to any form of alternative energy and face blackouts as a part of our daily lives. Why? Lest we forget the development sabotage. Yours sincerely,Nand Puranlast_img read more