NGO sounds suicide epidemic warning
By Faizool Deo
Guyana Chronicle
February 17, 2007

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FOUR young men, between 21 and 30 years old, have committed suicide over the last few weeks, while several others have attempted similar acts in the now troubled indigenous village of Moruka in Region One (Barima/Waini), a leading non-governmental organisation said yesterday.

The organisation, Help and Shelter, said the four men were among 13 persons (12 males) who attempted suicide and residents of the area are alarmed and most people fear that the self-inflicting deaths would continue.

A team from Help and Shelter visited the area last month.

At the root of the problem, according to Public Education Officer, Kevin Massiah, was the lack of counselling in the village, home to between 6,000-7,000 people.

Jean La Rose, a resident of Santa Rosa who was at a media briefing which highlighted the finding, made an appeal for a collaborative effort between non-governmental organisations (NGO) and the relevant authorities to help end the suicide cases.

This she feels can happen by conducting a thorough investigation, and by putting measures in place to curb any further outbreaks.

Alcohol abuse
According to information from the Help and Shelter findings, relatives of the first three men who died (the fourth killed himself last week, after the visit) said they were under the influence of alcohol when they committed suicide.

Massiah pointed out that alcohol and drugs plague the community to such a point that the villagers blamed these for the suicides.

Adding to this, La Rose said, a group of concerned women went to the area yesterday and have since decided that drastic actions, including the banning of all sales of alcohol, should be implemented.

Even though alcohol is seen as the main stimuli that makes the thought of suicide possible, rumours are touted as the reasons for the emotional build-up.

Massiah said most of the villagers pointed out that the men in the area do not talk about their problems and that for the few who had died the rumour mill was grinding about their spouses being unfaithful.

He said the villagers saw the need for a counselling body, since except for the priest (who not everyone confided in) there was no one else to assist them in their time of need.

As it is in the village, counsellors are not just needed for the young men in the society, but the parents and the children as well.

Massiah said there are a lot of ‘hurting people’ in the area. He referred to a case where a niece and nephew saw their uncle hanging from a tree.

“Many a time the children jump out of their sleep screaming, many of the families, mothers in particular are suffering,” he lamented.

Due to the geography of the area, the police don’t have the resources to go into action when needed and again there is the case of some people not wanting to confide in them.

The Help and Shelter official said the police agreed that some counselling mechanism must be put in place to help the community heal.

Memories of the past
The ‘domino effect’ cases of suicide that started on December 29, 2006 and continued until last Saturday (the last recorded date), are by no means new to the community.

According to La Rose, about three or four years ago there was another string of suicide attempts which the village had to endure. At that time, no measures were put in place but in time, normalcy returned. This time though four persons have died; people who contributed to the sustenance of their community.

Among the four were a teacher, a medic, a farmer and a student. It was revealed that both the teacher and medic had wives and children.

Another Public Education Officer of Help and Shelter, Dennis Cuffy, said his organisation would send a team in conjunction with the government ministries to the village next month to train counsellors.

Among persons willing to be trained, he said, are police officers and persons from the village council as the village look to begin their healing process.