Substance abuse
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RELATIVES are convinced that the death of Rekha (name changed to protect identity) was the result of battery. However, her reportedly abusive husband claimed that her demise was caused by an unfortunate accident, and his assertions were seemingly made credible by the post-mortem results that indicated her death was from a heart attack: But the jury is out on that one, because the injuries on the woman’s body were in no way compatible with the fall the alcoholic spouse said she had, and a violent attack could very well have precipitated the heart attack from which she died.

With tragic regularity, cases of outright murder following years of spousal abuse surface almost as an everyday occurrence and, sadly, the situation seems to have become such an endemic phenomenon in the society that each instance of a life taken in violence seems to be quickly forgotten. The general public seems to have become blasé over such occurrences.

And who takes cognisance that the lives squandered were precious to their loved ones – children, parents, siblings, friends, et al?  Children are often the victims, and the aftermath oftentimes produces delinquents – which is an evolutionary cycle of violence and problem-prone relationships.
Many times young men are accosted by members of the security services, sometimes ensuing in violent confrontations. Oftentimes it turns out that the young men in question were perpetrators of violent crimes, sometimes leading to the demise of their victims, yet most times their family members encourage their criminal forays because these ventures often provide the families of the perpetrators with survival mechanisms and sometimes unimaginable riches.
There are many overnight millionaires living in this society whose ill-gotten riches were obtained from someone else’s hard work; and if they have to kill their victims in the process, then so be it. The criminals often have no qualms in behaving as though their victims are mere dispensable commodities.
But when they are caught, many persons in the society become very vocal in their defence – until they themselves become victims to these predators.
In the nation’s schools, violent behaviour is escalating, and most often the decent children bear the brunt, becoming victims of the bullies, often with tragic consequences. There have been several reported cases where children who were bullied take their own lives, or they carry lifelong scars and become misfits in society: But the real tragedy is that this behaviour is generally a duplication of attitudes and actions witnessed in home environments.

Many females in the society, including teenage girls, have such very little self-esteem and low moral compass that they allow themselves to be mistreated with great disrespect by their male counterparts, which can escalate into myriad problems, including teenage pregnancy and contraction of sexually transmitted diseases.
Moral degeneracy has become so entrenched in the society that persons who refuse to participate in lewd and abominable conduct and conversations are shunned and treated as abnormal and not part of the team – pariahs to the general community.

Unless communities begin to address these problems holistically, with everyone, especially the educational and religious authorities, as well as village elders and other authoritative figures playing an integral role in child development and the wellbeing of members of their communities, this scourge will perpetuate itself until persons and communities self-destruct.

Those who practice the standards of yesteryear are generally mocked today, but those standards were once the trademark of the Guyanese psyche.
The products of this system were decent, well-behaved law-abiding adults, who believed in the basic principles of honour, respect for their fellow humans, and compassion for the less fortunate in society.

The system practiced then in homes, schools and in entire communities involved training in decorum, deportment, and good manners, with the requisite and necessary inputs to achieving equitable intellectual, social and physical development. These behavioral patterns and characteristic tendencies, as aforementioned, generally started from the home, and were strategically supported by a strong network involving the educational system, the religious bodies, and the community at large.
The escalation of substance abuse is directly attributable to lack of cohesion in the various caregivers/educators of the young people in society.
It may be a cliché’, but a truism nonetheless, that it takes a village to raise a child.

Single mother Mary (named changed) was horrified to discover that her teenage son was using cocaine and smoking cigarettes. She worked long hours and had sent her son for maths lessons to a neighbour who was unemployed and seemed very decent. She was very trusting and had no inkling that those neighbours were selling cigarettes and cocaine and had deliberately gotten her son addicted to those substances.

Renuka also worked long hours and her abusive husband never contributed to the household. Years after her daughter had become an adult, she discovered that her husband had been molesting her daughter since she was a young child, causing her to drop out of school and run away from home.
The beautiful, talented, brilliant young woman, as the direct result of her father’s actions, lost her self-esteem and engaged in a series of self-destructive acts before slowly emerging out of her depressive morass, most likely because she became a mother and her focus changed to protective mode, re-orienting her focus and goals.
In the Guyana of yesteryears, children could not make a wrong move without a village elder – and ethnicity never factored into this communal paradigm– taking that child in hand with the ‘rod of correction’, literally and figuratively.

Today, alcohol, drugs, cigarettes are being sold openly to children in schools and those same villages, with no intervention from anyone – not the village elders, not the school teachers, not the religious leaders; and certainly not the appointed authorities.

The sad fact is that the guardians of society are themselves often the peddlers of these illicit substances, and children are easy victims.
Substance abuse has gained widespread traction in every community and unless and until the relevant authorities take resolute actions to halt and heal this insidious ill in society, the social miasma will forever escalate into dark, deadly and ruinous futures for afflicted individuals and their entire families, and be a cataclysmic and continuous drain on the public purse.

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