Tackling a serious health problem Editorial
Guyana Chronicle
January 11, 2002

THERE'S good news for those who suffer from Lymphatic Filariasis in Guyana and overseas and local officials are excited at the prospects, as we report today.

But recent cases of reported suicide and attempts at suicide have turned attention again to a worrying problem.

Health Minister, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy, to his credit, has not attempted to skirt the issue and last year announced plans to address the situation on a national level.

He has acknowledged that suicide is a serious health problem and has promised that details of a national strategy would be unveiled soon.

Many people here feel that proper counselling could be a major boost in dealing with the issue and Dr. Ramsammy has said that the intention is to formalise a structure for counselling which will also cover alcoholism, family planning and other issues.

Alcoholism is another major social problem which has to be addressed, given the havoc it wreaks in countless homes across the country and it is commendable that it has been brought on the health agenda.

Despite the good intentions of the Health Ministry, it cannot effectively tackle all the maladies vying for special attention. The Government simply does not have the resources to devote to solving all the social and other critical problems countries like Guyana face.

Institutions like the Pan American Health Organisation and the World Health Organisation are making invaluable inputs, as they are in the case of Lymphatic Filariasis, referred to earlier.

Given the prevailing circumstances, organisations like the churches and civic groups can play critical back-up roles to the Health Ministry in coming to grips with suicide and alcoholism.

What is needed is an effective community-based approach where unusual tendencies, particularly among teenagers, can be spotted early and proper counselling services offered.

People with suicidal tendencies require trained counselling and churches can help set these up through regional and international links.

A structured education programme is also essential where the issues can be explored in schools, at the community level and through the media in an informed and enlightened manner.

We understand some church representatives are already involved with the Committee for the Prevention of Suicidal Behaviour and Suicide which Dr. Ramsammy heads.

It is imperative for more religious organisations to go easy on preaching hell and damnation for troubled persons with suicidal tendencies and get on board the campaign to reduce the incidence of suicide in the country.

This is not a problem that is unique to Guyana and an approach has to be devised that would ensure counselling is there when persons in need want it.

The more organisations involved, including churches, the greater would be the chances of the authorities coming to grips with the problem.

We look forward to wider national support for the "very structured approach" Dr. Ramsammy has promised.