Saying ‘no’ happens only when the empowerment tools are provided

Dear Editor,
A letter writer recently called upon Guyanese to ‘say yes to life, not suicide’. We know that this person means well but if it were that easy then there would be no suicide deaths at all. The simple fact is that people must be armed with tools that would empower them to be able to not see suicide as an option.
A case in point is the recent suicide death of that 15-year-old student. One tool would have been the training of students and teachers to identify suicide warning signs and act immediately to get help. Another tool would have been availability of a counsellor on the staff. In lieu of that, a third tool would have been quick and easy access to a counsellor by the school. The most important tool would have been the capacity of the school to be proactive and save a life since being reactive does not bring back the dead.
Indeed, all we’re left with is a death that was eminently avoidable, embracing circles of agony and pain and finger pointing and fault finding. Media reports indicate that ‘the motive for taking her own life remains a mystery’. But the warning sign was clear and evident – the student threatened to take her life!
Over the years, there have been numerous cases of suicide survivors claiming that they thought the suicide victim was joking when he or she talked about wanting to die by suicide. The fact is that when it comes to someone’s life, any and all warning signs should catalyse immediate action. It is always better to say sorry for being wrong than to beat the breast and pull the hair in grief and agony.
Meanwhile, this tragedy once again puts the issue of school counsellors front and centre. The reality is that mobile counselling units cannot service schools with the speed, urgency, regularity and adequacy required. So once again we call on the Government to reach out to the psychology undergrads of the last few years and set up a pool of trained counsellors who can service batches of neighbouring schools. And with UG now offering a psychology programme, current teachers can be facilitated to take the psychology programme so each school can have its own counsellor within a few years.
As well, teachers and students should be provided with ongoing training in mental health and teachers should be tasked with becoming mandated reporters of suicide ideation (and abuse). The Caribbean Voice does have a workshop for students that has already been taken to a number of schools and youth groups, most recently last month at a school on the East Coast of Demerara.

The Caribbean Voice