Team plans counselling for Moruca residents in aftermath of suicides
Stabroek News
February 17, 2007

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Following a high incidence of suicide and suicide attempts at Moruca, Santa Rosa, Senior Public Education Officer at Help and Shelter, Dennis Cuffy, yesterday said persons who are in pain sometimes see suicide as the only way out.

A team comprising representatives from the shelter, the Ministry of Human Services and the Amerindian Peoples Association (APA) was propelled into action after within a three-month period: from December 29 to February 10, there were four suicides, the most recent one committed by a medic on the latter date and ten suicide attempts. All of the suicides were by males and one female was among those who attempted to commit the act.

Cuffy said that they had planned a workshop for the community between January 11 and 12 and decided to make it two-fold as they sought to find a reason behind the incidents. After initial investigations, he said they returned to the village, this time with assistance from the APA and the ministry, to provide counselling for the relatives and friends of the deceased persons. He recalled that during the workshop many persons were pre-occupied with the deaths and that prompted the team to go back. Cuffy said they intend to return to the village to host workshops to train counsellors and for counsellors in turn to train other persons to become counsellors.

To this end the APA's Jean La Rose, said it is costly to get from one area to the next and as such she asked for financial assistance. La Rose also said that persons who would be conducting the training should be given monetary compensation as they too would have to take time out from their jobs to do so.

Cuffy said the probation officer compiled a report, including recommendations, for the ministry, and he hopes that they are considered. He said he understands that the ministry will be extending some of its services to the community including assistance with school uniforms. Cuffy also pointed out that suicide crosses all ethnic groups and some persons who are hurting see it as the only way to get rid of the pain. He called for support to stem, "this tide of pain and suffering."

La Rose said that alcohol abuse and the use of illegal drugs is prevalent in the community which has a population of between 6,000 and 7,000. She recalled that several years ago the head of the village had cause to write then Commissioner of Police, Laurie Lewis, to request an investigation of the illicit use of drugs. La Rose said that she is very concerned about the current problem as several years ago the village was rocked by a number of attempted suicides and one that resulted in a death, over a short period of time. She said at that time nothing was done to get to the root of the problem and it just went away but she hopes that it is not now recurring. La Rose said while unemployment may not have been the cause of these incidents, employment opportunities are very minimal.

Last September Minister of Health, Dr Leslie Ramsammy, had said his ministry was designing a new mental health plan that will tackle the incidence of suicide in Guyana by identifying depression as a disease and training mental health professionals who would be deployed throughout the country. Further, in October, Ramsammy said the ministry was working with a mental health specialist and it was expected that there would have been an intensified approach which would have included suicide as a major component in the mental health plan. However, this plan is yet to be introduced.

Ramsammy had made a similar declaration in his 2001 tenure as minister when he had announced in August of that year that in the following year, that is 2002, a director of mental health would have been appointed to the public health sector and each hospital would have had a psychiatrist on staff to effectively deal with the burgeoning problem. Ramsammy had made that announcement at an anti-suicide rally held in Corriverton, Berbice. The minister had outlined the government's plan to deal with the issue through the implementation of new outreach programmes and assistance from the Life Savers Club and other social institutions. This plan never came to fruition.