Government is not opposed to the introduction of a toll-free suicide helpline. But according to Minister of Public Security, Mr. Khemraj Ramjattan, while a move in this direction would be tactical, Government is currently not in the best of positions to independently fast-track its implementation.
But according to Ramjattan, he is willing to throw any possible support behind individuals or organisations willing to bring such an initiative to fruition. He however noted, “The first step is to know who is behind such an idea, because I would want to know if they have good or bad intentions. There are some people who might want it for their own profiteering purpose,” Minister Ramjattan speculated.
Ramjattan’s remarks came on the heels of recent calls for the implementation of a toll-free suicide helpline from The Caribbean Voice. But advocacy in this regard is not novel, as the non-governmental organisation [NGO] has been agitating for some time for its realisation.
Recognising the Caribbean Voice as a credible NGO, the Public Security Minister said that he is ready and willing to lend support wherever possible.
“I would support Caribbean Voice, they have done some work in Guyana, but I want to see them going down on the ground doing much more work.”
He added, “A lot of the time NGOs ask for government support and financing and all of that, but I am sure you will appreciate that financing is not available for all of these NGOs. We would love to have the NGOs supported, but the Ministry of Finance is not in the best shape, especially in the context of the sugar industry.”
Although inhibited by its present financial ability, Ramjattan said, “I will give them as much support as possible from the Ministry of Public Security.” He moreover suggested that the Caribbean Voice should seek to accumulate resources from within the Diaspora or wherever possible and “we certainly will help them set up whatever platform, the 203 hotline [helping], and things like that.”
According to Ramjattan, he has already been in discussion with the local representative of Caribbean Voice on the issue.
“I think I have done some emails to the extent that yes I would like that to happen along with some other things…so the financing of these things would have to be forthcoming from them too, in view of the difficult economic and financial circumstances that we have.”
Speaking on the issue recently, Coordinator of the Guyana Chapter of The Caribbean Voice, Mr. Nazim Hussain, said “It is high time that moves are made to introduce a toll-free suicide help-line to the Guyanese public.”
According to Hussain, the Caribbean Voice has long been advocating in this regard. Even as he recalled having a conversation sometime ago with Minister Ramjattan, Hussain said that he [Minister Ramjattan] was already agitating for such a measure to be in place.
Currently, the national suicide helplines are: 223-0001, 223-0009, 600-7896, 623-4444. Persons can also place WhatsApp calls to 623-4444 and 600-7896.
According to Hussain, such a measure is imperative, since a number of people who may be in need of professional help may at times not even have credit to make calls.
“They don’t have time to wonder if they have credit when they need help from a professional,” said Hussain, as he stressed the need for the toll-free service.
But realising this measure continues to be merely an idea.
According to Hussain, while Ramjattan has spoken of the need for such a measure to be in place, no definitive forward movement has been introduced towards its implementation thus far.
“There is need for a suicide helpline,” Hussain emphasised, as he recalled how the issue was again brought to the fore when The Caribbean Voice was among the Non Governmental Organisations invited to Parliament recently to make a presentation about the suicide situation in Guyana.
The Pan American Health Organisation-spearheaded event, Hussain said, saw the Caribbean Voice making representation for the toll free suicide hotline. At that forum, Hussain recalled, senior government functionaries the likes of Minister within the Public Health Ministry, Dr. Karen Cummings, were in attendance, and were not opposed to it becoming a reality. According to Hussain, government could help to fast track putting in place the toll-free service by approaching the telephone companies and plotting the way forward.
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