THE Caribbean Voice, through its social activism programme, Arise (https://www.facebook.com/groups/suicideepidemic/), has been advocating a number of measures that are low cost or no cost, easy to implement, and that can be significant in helping to tackle the suicide epidemic sweeping Guyana.
And we do believe that redressing this plague definitely requires a multi-sectoral approach, as pointed out by Health Minister Dr. Bheri Ramsaran.
In this context, we strongly believe that Ministry of Education has a crucial role to play. Firstly, we are suggesting that the Health and Family Life Education Programme curriculum should include suicide, substance abuse, all forms of violence, and abuse with special emphasis on domestic abuse, relationships and intimacy (at the appropriate age levels), including teenage pregnancy and alcoholism and substance abuse.
Teachers who handle this curriculum can be provided with in service and/or professional development training on evenings, weekends and holidays.
Secondly, we suggest that the initiative to have at least one guidance counsellor in each school, which existed some time ago, should be re-launched. Teachers can be provided with basic training through the University of Guyana (all campuses) and/or in service training.
These counsellors could perform dual roles by also serving the communities in which their schools are located, at least during their working hours.
Thirdly, we also suggest that, through parent/teachers associations, workshops on good parenting be held, especially focusing on suicide and related issues, identification of signs and signals, and first response, using empathetic communication and affirmation of self-acceptance, self-forgiveness and self-worth.
Resources from teaching staffs, UG, the Ministries of Health, Home Affairs and Social Services, as well as the national associations of psychologists and social workers can be tapped to ensure the success of these workshops.
Fourthly, we also suggest that these issues can be incorporated into the academic curriculum and extra curricula activities via essay, poetry, art, debates, drama and quizzes.
In this regard, The Caribbean Voice is prepared to underwrite an essay contest for all schools for the 2014/15 school year. In fact, we have already presented to the Guyana Teachers’ Union a proposal relating to this contest.
Furthermore, we urge that, through the good office of the Honourable Minister of Education, the initiative recently undertaken by students at Black Bush Polder, New Amsterdam and the Essequibo Coast — to rally against suicide and related issues — be extended countrywide both as a means of bringing public attention to these issues as well as to develop social activism in our students, so that they can take this activism into their communities and various community-based institutions.
Perhaps students can be allowed one day a semester (term), at least one day a school year, for this kind of activity; and parents and the community can also be invited to participate. We are certain that, if alerted, the media would be delighted to cover these events.
Perhaps students themselves can do reports for the media.
Additionally, we strongly urge that fifth formers be tasked with conducting surveys on suicide, domestic violence, and related issues within their communities; and that they use the information to infer patterns et cetera. This exercise can be projects in ELA, science and social studies.
The Caribbean Voice is willing to assist with drafting the questionnaires, if such help is needed. And we are also willing to collect the answers to questionnaires, collate and analyze them, and present the findings to the Education Ministry and the media, if the Ministry is unable to do so.
Also, we support the point made by our board member Dr. Faith Harding, as published recently in the media – that students at the Teachers Training College and the University of Guyana be taught courses on mental health.
This knowledge and the attendant skills can, and will, become needed in the work place, the community, and their family lives.
Anna Addie Odyssey
Donna Jennifer Ross
Pandit Sharma Daneshwar
Pandit Amintnarine Rabindradat