Grief support groups mooted for survivors of suicide victims

Stabroek News
August 5, 2001

The formation of local grief support groups to help survivors of suicide victims cope with the trauma associated with suicide has been recommended by Dean of the American International School of Medicine, Dr Ovid Isaacs.

At a workshop held at the Cheddi Jagan Dental Centre on Tuesday last, Dr Isaacs, a public health researcher and head and neck specialist, noted the absence of grief support groups in Guyana for survivors of suicide victims. He said that such groups, using the self-help support process, would be ideal for the local situation.

The self-help support process allows for the survivors to talk about their experiences, so they no longer feel ignored or alone. They are given the chance to see how others cope under stress as well.

He said that there was also need for support services and counselling for the relatives and friends of survivors of suicide victims, who are left in a state of grief. He outlined the healing process a person in grief went through including, experiencing the pain, crying, talking, laughing, helping others and the need to avoid unhealthy shortcuts such as becoming involved in drugs and alcohol abuse.

While he noted that there were different strategies that could be used he felt that the grief support group worked well as it focused on helping others to help themselves.

The seminar was organised by the Ministry of Health in collaboration with the American International School of Medicine, which Dr Isaacs said has agreed to lend its various areas of expertise to the Guyana government. It conducted the two-half day workshops free of cost to the Ministry of Health.

The seminar was part of a series of lectures and courses to assist in training and identifying persons to sit on the national advisory committee on the prevention of suicide and suicidal behaviour. The seminar is also one of several activities to mark Suicide Prevention month being observed this month.

Suicide has been declared a major mental health issue in Guyana and the ministry has begun to focus on the problem with the aim of preventing suicides and curbing suicidal behaviour.

The two-day seminar dealt with predicting the behaviour of those who are suicidal, the epidemiology of suicide, those at risk, misconceptions of suicide and why people commit suicide.

The general idea behind the seminar, Dr Isaacs said, was to educate individuals on a broad range of public health education issues and so empower them to help in the reduction of the incidence of suicide and prevent those at risk.

Among those present at the workshop were representatives of the Guyana Police Force, Education Ministry, Ministry of Labour, Human Services and Social Security, Ministry of Health, the New Opportunity Corps, Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports, the Pan American Health Organisation/World Health Organisation, the United Nations Children's Fund, a number of religious leaders and media houses. (Miranda La Rose)