By Kurt Campbell
[www.inewsguyana.com] – A recent poll by this news agency saw the majority (79%) of respondents agreeing that the various religious groups in Guyana can play a greater role in suicide prevention.
In a follow up, iNews sat down with two members of the Inter-Religious Organization of Guyana to get their outlook on the topic. Ironically, these two Devout Leaders also believe that religious bodies must take a more active approach in addressing the situation.
According to Chrishna Persaud, “It is not about pulling back the boat when it is heavy; it’s about not getting there.” He explained that suicide is both culturally and socially inherent. He also pointed out that such acts have been glorified, historically and as such there is still an acceptance for it.
He argued that such acceptances must be changed including notions that only poor people and persons of certain ethnicity commit suicide, therein lays the role of religious bodies.
He believes changes from the ‘laws of God’ which once governed to a more legislative framework have also lend itself to these occurrences and called for the upholding of strong family and religious values.
“Civilization at its best,” he said, but an echo from across the room said “civilization at its worst.”
The echo was that of Ronald McGarrell, who said while the reasons that drive persons to commit suicide are many, it all borders on them feeling there is no other option. He said people must love more, advise more and be more of each other’s keepers.
“People must familiarize themselves with the symptoms associated with suicidal persons … communication is important.”
He reasoned that suicide prevention is not only the responsibility of religious bodies but that of Governments and other social institutions. Persaud said the options for managing stress must match and exceed the prevalence of suicides.
The two religious leaders both agreed that there is the need for religious leaders to be trained in identifying and counseling persons contemplating suicide, something that is significantly lacking.
In a message to those contemplating the act, McGarrell who boast of great experience in counseling such persons advises that “time is a healer”; his colleague Persaud said people must “stick it out with happy thoughts.”
“Every temple, every mosque and every church must become a relief center” McGarrell said, adding that “People must also examine their own lives.”
He said another constraint to what religious bodies can do in the prevention of suicide is the fact that it is kept from them. On this note he reiterated the need for more trained personnel to identify and counsel suicidal individuals.
Meanwhile, Persaud was adamant in making his point that many times it is not about finding solution/suicide prevention, arguing that it is about advocacy.
At points it seemed that Persaud strayed away from the topic but he did not believe that solutions would have to be sought if persons were prevented in the first place from reaching the point.
In this regard, the duo registered their concern with the prevalence of such acts in the Guyanese society. They say the national strategy seems to be failing. According to Persaud this failure has resulted from the lack of trained and experience persons.
McGarrell believes that more attention needs to be paid to areas where the situation is prevalent to see what the main reasons are and prepare people to deal with the situation. He said much research needs to be done.
“Acts of suicide means the nation is hurting – more needs to be done,” he added.
Last year, the main opposition – A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) – urged the governing People’s Progressive Party Government to take the lead in tackling the issue.
The APNU had also stated that the administration’s complacency towards suicide contributes to the continuation of the crisis.
Guyana has been seeing reports of at least one suicide per week. A phenomenon that has generated much public outcry.