There are many social ills affecting the Guyanese society, especially the younger segment of the population, and programmes and support services to help address these issues could never be enough. For example, the use of illegal drugs and alcohol, crime, suicide, domestic and other forms of violence are having a huge negative impact on communities across Guyana. And now, more than ever, there is need for a genuine collaborative approach, with inclusive planning and coordination, wherein volunteerism is a key element, to help find practical and lasting solutions to these many ills.
We are well aware that sometimes young people feel there is no end or solutions to the problems they are facing, and hence they turn to various forms of anti-social behaviours, thereby creating more challenges for an already burdened society.
While the Government must play a crucial role in designing the relevant policies and putting in place the necessary legislative framework and other support mechanisms aimed at addressing these issues, this burden must also be shared by various actors within the society, such as religious groups, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) etc, since such problems affect everyone. For example, there is hardly any family in Guyana which was never touched directly or indirectly by suicide. Experts have pointed to the fact that about 90% of people who die by suicide had some sort of mental illness at the time of their death.
Many people die by suicide because depression is triggered by several negative life experiences, and the suffering person does not receive effective treatment or support. In many communities across the country, persons are crying out for attention. They need guidance, 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.
At present, there are quite a few NGOs, faith-based organisations etc offering such support services, but there is need for more to get involved. Those who are already on board should be commended for the work they are doing. Such work is invaluable, and must be supported and encouraged. A few new organisations are also coming on board, and some are expanding their services offered.
The role of the Private Sector should also never be underestimated. There is need for funding for many crucial programmes aimed at creating better opportunities for young persons, and businesses should step up to the challenge. Such programmes, once effectively implemented, would see our children and young people become well equipped with the necessary skills to develop themselves, and in turn contribute to the overall development of the country.
Former Caricom Secretary General Ambassador Irwin LaRocque had some time ago said the majority of victims as well as perpetrators of crimes reported by the Police are young males 18 to 35 years old. This is surely reason to be concerned, as right away one would begin to worry about the kind of future these persons would have, and the contributions they would make to their societies, if any at all.
Certainly, there is a great need for intervention in order to combat the current challenges facing young people. In order to prepare young people for workplace success, job training programmes need to go beyond technical instruction and also teach “life skills” such as communication, reliability, and teamwork. This push to teach youths life skills has been validated by employers who have consistently reported that, above all, they want to hire employees who possess workplace-ready skills such as communication, teamwork, motivation and responsibility. Technical skills, they say, can be learned on the job.
We believe that if our young people are to move from the less mature and irresponsible ways of thinking and acting to making more mature and responsible judgments and engaging in activities that are the hallmark of a socially productive adulthood, certain support systems must be provided.