Domestic violence hotline

Dear Editor,
Some years ago, requests were made by a local NGO for the suicide helpline to publicly release figures to not only support its contention that the helpline was being widely accessed but also to shore up citizens’ confidence in the helpline and further drive its usage. The request was flatly rejected. However, the recent release of data for use of the domestic violence (DV) hotline corroborates the viability of such a request.
The DV hotline is manned by trained personnel and connected with the Police so that victims can be quickly reached in any part of Guyana and this too is something local NGOs and activists have been agitating for with respect to the suicide helpline.
And as the recent public release and analysis of data reveals, not only is the DV hotline being widely accessed, but public confidence seems to be growing in its efficacy.
On the other hand, feedback from many who had accessed the suicide helpline has been far from positive and the fact that a number of persons over the years have vehemently refused to use the suicide helpline when referred to by a local NGO only highlights the lack of public confidence in that helpline.
So as a suicide-prevention advocate and activist, may I again make the following suggestions:
* That the suicide helpline immediately release figures as the DV hotline did and continue to periodically so do;
* That information on training of phone operators, to include emphatic communication, be made public as the DV hotline did;
* That phone operators also be trained in immediate steps to mitigate the effects of poisoning as this would increase the chances of recovery for those who ingest poisons;
* That the suicide helpline be connected with the Police nationally (who must also be sensitised) to ensure rapid response with respect to calls about suicide ideation or even attempted suicide;
* That the suicide helpline be connected with counsellors across Guyana so that immediate clinical professional counselling (as against so-called counsellors who create more damage and even suicide fatalities) can be offered to callers who need same, especially since lives would be at stake;
* That, like the DV hotline, the suicide helpline also engage in ongoing and extensive promotions so that citizens across Guyana can know what the numbers are and be able to quickly call when the need arises;
* That the suicide helpline administrators clearly and consistently get the message out there that suicide ideation is never a joke and must always be taken seriously even if the individual has expressed such ideation one hundred times. Far too often loved ones of suicide victims say they thought the victim was joking because he/she had always said he/she would take his/her life.

Annan Boodram