The Caribbean Voice (TCV) notes Annie Balliram’s missive in the local print media in response to our corrections to inaccuracies and oversights in her original letter on suicide in Guyana. TCV has no interest in any ongoing debate with Balliram and certainly has no intention of nitpicking, engaging is semantics or arguing in abstraction while the suicide contagion stalks our nation. For us, time, effort and resources are best deployed in doing what is of paramount importance, saving lives and empowering people.
Suffice to say The Caribbean Voice has total confidence in our 70 plus volunteers and support specialists, with a range of skills and expertise, including psychologists, clinical counsellors, researchers, pollsters, sociologists, mental health professionals, medical personnel and social and community activists. Furthermore, our suicide prevention activism is grounded on numerous research and studies as well as anecdotal and empirical evidence on suicide in Guyana, all of which are in sync with respect to all the significant indicators. And the results of our three years plus of activism have affirmed the prevailing literature, including that emanating from international institutions such as the World Health Organisation and the Pan American Health Organisation.
So while we look forward to the global impact of Balliram’s revolutionary ‘model’, we will continue to educate, enlighten, advocate, lobby, train, counsel, network, engage in outreaches, foster collaboration while debunking myths and misinformation, providing coping skills, developing self-esteem, arming Guyanese with the wherewithal to identify warning signs and take action proactively, ensuring that all who so need have access to counselling and gradually driving back the scourge of suicide.
In fact, over the past three years, The Caribbean Voice has invested about five and a half million dollars in suicide prevention and anti-abuse in Guyana. We have stretched every dollar to the maximum since we have no overhead whatsoever and our leadership fund, out of pocket, their costs associated with our work.
During this time we have engaged in over 300 successful counselling cases; held over 20 workshops that trained almost 2000 persons, including hundreds of students, and engaged in another 20 outreaches that networked with a few thousand persons. Also we held more than 50 meetings; attended over 25 different fora, widely disseminated information (articles, letters, interviews and posts) across numerous media platforms, traditional – in more than 50 media globally, including New York City’s Daily News newspaper, the BBC, Vice News, ITV and Al Jazeera – and online on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google, Linkedin, Pintserest, Tumblr, and YouTube, reaching millions; engaged in lobbying for a range of measures with the suicide helpline coming into being; commissioned two surveys and held four press conferences.
We also held the first and only truly National Stakeholders’ Conference on Suicide and Related Issues that was attended by over 70 stakeholders. Also, TCV partners in Voices Against Violence, which organises the annual Anti-Violence Candlelight Vigil that, in two years, say 500 plus candle light vigils were held across Guyana. And we launched the annual El Dorado Awards, which has so far honoured over 30 affirmation agents on the social landscape, with another 18 to be honoured this year. Our work has a national reach and we have established regional sub groups in six regions, with the remaining four to be set up next year. In recognition of our work we were invited by the local UN representative to make a presentation at a special session of Guyana’s Parliament.
Moreover, we are bolstered by the tremendous success thus far in reducing the suicide rate from 44.2 per 100,000 to 30.6 per 100,000 and by the increasing the numbers of Guyanese who reach out to TCV and other entities to seek counselling for self and others as the taboos relating to suicide and mental health succumb to the selfless work of increasing numbers of suicide prevention NGOs and activists. We are also heartened by the increasing numbers of stakeholders – local government administrations, political parties, businesses, media, NGOs, FBOs, CBOs, special interests groups and even Government agencies – who put aside various divides to join hands on this journey.
Again we commend Balliram’s passionate rhetoric and invite her to transform that passion for the talk into a zeal for the walk because at the end of the day, it is the walk that really makes the critical difference.