Home Editorial Deadly consequences when systems fail our children
The local media houses are again reporting of the death by suicide of another 15-year-old student of a city school after alleged bullying.
This is the second student from a leading secondary school in Georgetown who has died by suicide following allegations of verbal abuse and bullying.
In June 2021, a 15-year-old of Stanislaus College died by suicide after she was humiliated in school. On Monday, the Education Ministry reported that a 15-year-old of St Joseph High School died by suicide and a probe has been launched.
If one can recall, this publication reported the horror story of a fifth-form student of a Georgetown secondary school on September 12, 2022, in which he detailed abuse and discrimination not only by students but also teachers.
To quote the young man: “My school life is like the worst nightmare ever. I’m being abused physically, mentally, and verbally by both teachers and students because of my sexuality. I’m tired!”
Before these three incidents, the media reported the shocking death of a 15-year-old fourth-form student of a private city school.
To its credit, the Education Ministry has launched an investigation into all of these incidents, but this is after the fact and when the damage, heartbreak, and devastation have already been done.
There is no doubt, more details would emerge in the following investigations, but as of now, there are several unanswered questions; for example, what would have caused the teens to end their lives and what sort of help (if any) was provided to the teens in trying to prevent them from taking this route.
Quite a number of persons have already taken to social media to express varying views, but one common thread is that more could have been done and ought to have been done in response to these situations. In most cases, no one dreams overnight that they want to commit suicide and just do it. Most times, the warning signs are there, but many ignore them or they just treat them casually.
What is clear from these tragedies is that the entire system has failed.
The intervention of other agencies that are more equipped and trained to deal with such problems, such as the Education Ministry’s Welfare Department and the Child Care and Protection Agency (CCPA) should have been immediately sought so they could provide the necessary help. We are not certain as to the level of involvement (if any at all) of these agencies in this most recent case.
How could a serious matter such as this go unnoticed by the principal and other teachers of the school? Assuming that they were unaware of the teen’s situation, did they not notice any strange behaviour from the teen that would warrant immediate intervention?
There is hardly any family in Guyana that has never been touched directly or indirectly by suicide. Experts have pointed to the fact that about 90 per cent of people die by suicide because depression is triggered by several negative life experiences and the suffering person does not receive effective treatment or support.
Young people are crying out for attention; they need guidance and help or simply someone to speak with; many want to find a way out of their misery. However, sometimes accessing that source of help is very difficult.
It is hoped that the relevant stakeholders – especially the agencies responsible for child care and protection matters, the Education Ministry, the Human Services Ministry, Non-Governmental Organisations, the churches, and communities in general will re-examine the issue of suicide and in particular, the circumstances surrounding this tragedy and take steps to ensure that something like this is prevented at all costs in the future.
Importantly, the lesson to be learnt is that when systems fail our people, the consequences can be deadly.