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Berbicians rally against suicide
January 22, 2016

THE NEW JERSEY Arya Samaj Humanitarian Mission (NJASHM), in collaboration with the Public Health Ministry, Department of Education Region Six, the Guyana Police Force, Ministry of Social Cohesion and other stakeholders, held a massive suicide awareness and prevention walk and rally on Friday in Region Six, East Berbice.

The approximately two-mile walk, which attracted well over 1,000 participants, commenced from Dr Tulsi Street in Williamsburg and culminated at the Port Mourant Community Centre Ground. During the march, participants displayed several posters with various anti-suicide messages and shouted, “Yes to life”, “Stop suicide”, and “Throw away the poison”, among other things as they took to the streets in a united stand.

The walk and rally are part of the humanitarian mission’s action plan to help bring awareness and let people know there is help to combat the suicide epidemic that has given Guyana and Guyanese negative recognition worldwide, as being one of the leading countries with suicidal deaths.

The walk saw in attendance several high-profile individuals from the Ministry of Public Health, Ministry of Social Cohesion, Ministry of Public Infrastructure, Department of Education, Regional Democratic Council, and several other stake-holders, including youth groups from various communities, and GuySuCo Training Centre. The walk ended with a rally at the Port Mourant Community Centre ground, which was packed to capacity as various speakers took to the podium to deliver various messages.

Minister within the Ministry of Public Health, Dr Karen Cummings, in her remarks to the gathering, recognised the march as an important initiative, as it aims to help individuals and organisations with a vision to mobilise efforts to save lives.

She identified the common misconceptions people have about persons who commit suicide or are suicidal, with shouts of approval from the crowd. She also thanked the organisers and said she was there because the Government, in combating the issue of suicide, had embarked on a national effort to engage a number of ministries, international donors, NGOs and other concerned stakeholders to combine their efforts and take affirmative action against suicide.

Dr Cummings said several initiatives would be undertaken by the Public Health Ministry in response to suicidal behaviour, some being capacity-building in health centres; providing all heath centres with a counsellor/social worker, who will visit once per week; improve health literacy through public awareness; identify and train gatekeepers in communities; create a social safety net programme for vulnerable mental health patients; develop an approach whereby trained mental health workers go into regions to train a larger quantity of people, among other things. She stressed that suicide is preventable and that prevention works.

“In order to accomplish our mission and goals, we will be using the public health model along with other media campaigns and education to raise awareness of suicide. We will be utilising a strong educational approach to dispel the myths about suicide, and to let others know about the realities surrounding the national issue.”


Further, Dr Cummings outlined the importance of working collaboratively to stamp out suicide. “It is important that, individually and collectively, we recognise that we are in a crisis situation in our country. Let us work assiduously to reduce, and eventually eliminate as far as we possibly can, suicide in Guyana. We must work collaboratively, since no one institution can effectively stem the tide.”

Minister within the Ministry of Public Infrastructure, Annette Ferguson, told the gathering at the rally that suicide is not the answer to problems.

“The good books do not speak of suicide. God never ordained life that he has blessed us with for us, as men and women, to take our lives.”

She then addressed the youths directly, stating that the world statistics say that approximately one person takes his or her life every 40 seconds.

The stats hit home hard, as sounds of shock and disbelief could be heard from the crowd when the figures were revealed.
“Suicide is not the answer to your problems. There is help out there. God blessed us with this special gift of life, and it’s not for man to take his own life. Choose life, share life, and love your life. We can all help to celebrate and enjoy life.”

The event also featured skits, poems, songs and dances in between the various pep talks. Among the things that really got the crowd going was a rap piece by a student of JC Chandisingh Secondary. Her raps got the crowd hyped up as she dished out her lyrics, an original composition in a free-style rap with a one drop beat booming from the speakers.


Regional Chairman David Armogan, in his remarks, also thanked the organisers for the initiative and stressed that, as a small developing country, Guyana needs every life and could not afford to lose anyone, especially to suicide, as every life counts.
He implored everyone to take time out of their busy schedules and lend a shoulder to anyone who needs it. His message was that “problems are temporary, but suicide is permanent and should never be an option.”

Meanwhile, CEO of New Amsterdam Hospital, Colin Bynoe, called for a unified effort to stop this scourge.

“We call on all to play a part in suicide prevention. A person who attempts suicide once is likely to try again. If you know of someone who falls into that category, please keep an eye on that person; please counsel them, please give them support, talk to them.

“Another risk factor is family history. There is need to come together as one big family. As students in school, we need to show the necessary support, not only know of their problems, but show them the right direction.

“Parents need to establish and open communication links with our children and family, so that they can come and speak to us at any time about anything.”

NJASHM President Suresh Sugrim was thankful for the partnership in combating the scourge. He, too, stressed that suicide was not the answer to problems, and called for strength, focus and unity, contending that these will make a difference in addressing the problem.

“Life is precious. Don’t you ever turn to suicide! It is not the answer. To the parents: take hold of your children’s hands, don’t leave them alone. We, as an NGO in partnership with Government, cannot fight suicide by ourselves; and if you want to bring about changes, then each one of you here can make that difference. Each one of us has choices, and the choices we make are upon us as individuals. So I encourage you: you have a bright future ahead of you, don’t allow suicide to take you away at an early age. We are here to work with you. We love you, and when you cannot find love at home, we are here for you to give and share that love with you. You are not alone. I want to assure you, through our President, ministers, and regional executives [that] help is coming to Berbice,” he said.

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