With the ultimate aim of preparing a national mental health strategy, local nongovernmental organisation (NGO), The Guyana Foundation (GF), has embarked upon a six-day suicide workshop.
These workshops are just the first in a set of activities planned by the NGO to tackle the issue of suicide in Guyana.
The six-day workshop was launched Monday and saw just over a dozen participants. These participants ranged from educators, social workers, and even rice farmers.
According to GF Managing Director, Anthony Autar, the workshop is a part of GF’s continual work in educating, raising awareness, and training counsellors in an effort to do its part to reduce the large number of deaths by suicide in Guyana.
Speaking directly to those participating in the workshop, GF Founder, Supriya Singh-Bodden emphasised that the trained participants will be the ones entrusted to make a big difference to Guyana.
“Each one of you, we are entrusting you with a heavy responsibility. You will become the group that we will continue to grow and nurture and that will go out and assist Guyanese who are suffering terribly from mental health issues,” Singh-Bodden said.
In explaining the rationale behind the workshop, Singh-Bodden indicated that, from the outset, the Guyana Foundation set about doing projects in Guyana that would look at women and youth empowerment and community renewal. She explained that GF garnered enough support, both locally and internationally, to execute these projects across Guyana. However, she said, as the GF team travelled from region to region, a new need was recognised: the need to address “the amount of people that were falling victim to suicide and other mental health issues.”
She said, “There were times when we would go into a village, we would have a young lady help us to do donations and we’ll go back into the same village and would ask for her to join us, but be told that she is dead.”
Singh-Bodden explained that it was from that point that the GF “changed gears”. She said a massive national campaign was launched to tackle suicide. Over the years, she added, GF has been working to bring attention, both locally and internationally, to the ongoing problem.
“The time has come now where we must begin to spring into action and we must now begin to solve the problem,” Singh-Bodden emphasised. She went on, “Often you can continue to talk and expend a lot of energy analysing the problem and so our organisation would like to spring into action.”
Meanwhile, as part of its action plan, GF will be preparing a national mental health strategy, she said. She said this strategy will be presented to the Guyana Government upon its completion. Further, she said, GF will engage local and international experts in the field to assist in the preparation of the document.
“Not only are we going to hand over this plan to the government, but we are going to prepare this organisation to assist in the implementation of the plan,” she said.
She added that GF will vigorously attempt to raise funds globally to ensure that the issue is addressed as expediently as possible.
“The plan that we have in action will unfold over the next couple of months but the most important thing is that each one of us have a very, very important role to play going forward,” she said.
She stressed that the entire nation needs to be on guard, sensitised and willing to look out for each other.
“We are going to attempt to bring mental health counselling and assistance and make it as easily accessible to every single individual who is feeling mentally vulnerable in any way,” she added.
The workshop, which concludes on Saturday, is being facilitated by Guyanese-Canadian mental health professional, Dr. Latchmin Narain. Highly trained, Dr. Narain is a registered member of the Ontario Association of Consultants, Counsellors, Psychometrics and Psychotherapists (OACCPP) and holds a Master’s Degree as well as a Doctorate Degree in Counselling Psychology. Dr. Narain also runs the Anger Management Centre of Toronto Inc. Further, Narain has worked with GF in the past and facilitated workshops with the NGO last year.
Speaking briefly during the launch, Dr. Narain noted that Guyana is “the suicide capital of world”. This fact, he said, was “appalling”. He further noted that in Guyana, action has been slow and though promises have been made by high-ranking officials, “nothing seems to be done”.
“I must commend the Guyana Foundation for launching this initiative. I think this is a very appropriate project at this time,” he said. He expressed hope that, following the training, the participants would make a “palatable difference” in the lives of the Guyanese citizenry.
Over the next few days, Dr. Narain is set to conduct extensive training. Among the topics to be touched on are counselling skills; models of psychotherapy, including Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) and Solution Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT); and identifying signs of low self-esteem. There will even be a role playing exercise on the final day as well as in-depth discussions each day.
Additionally, the Guyana Foundation plans to host its second set of workshops in December. This workshop, it said, will be conducted by Lauren Johnson, an internationally recognized Guyanese-Canadian psychotherapist. Johnson holds three Master’s Degrees in Counselling Psychology. She specializes in Experiential, Transpersonal and Creative Expression Healing methods. Furthermore, Johnson has travelled throughout Canada to conduct presentations on professionalism for settlement and integration counsellors. She has also developed various mental health training curricula and assisted counsellors in dealing with survivors of torture.