According to the World Health Organization's 2012 report, suicide is the leading cause of death for 15-24 year olds in Guyana.
One 2013 study found that approximately 2 out of every 10 Guyanese boys and 1 out of every 3 Guyanese girls (aged 13-15) were currently thinking about committing suicide**.
Suicide is a pressing issue for young people in Guyana.
Unfortunately, there have not been any significant attempts to introduce research-based suicide prevention to Guyanese youth. Support from government and healthcare agencies is currently not enough to meet the needs of the population. No empirical studies been published on best practices for suicide prevention in Guyana.
Existing mental health services are very limited in Guyana. Even so, they are not frequently used by people due to stigma against seeking mental health care. Statements like these are frequent:
"Going to a hospital means I'm 'mad!'"
"What if someone else sees me going to a therapist? What will people say about me?"
"I will get in trouble if I ask my parents if I can see a psychologist."
And so, many adolescents keep their problems to themselves -- sometimes, with devastating results.
For these reasons, it is important to start to think of more creative ways of helping Guyanese adolescents get the mental healthcare they need. One method, which has shown success in a variety of international settings, is by integrating mental healthcare into school settings.
Adolescents spend most of their day in school, and often have trusted teachers that they confide in when they have problems. Parents already find schools to be a trusted site for collaborating in their children's care. School-based mental health programming shows promise in Guyana.
We are aiming to develop a school-based suicide prevention program to be used in secondary schools in Guyana. Teachers, school administration, and school-allied community workers (e.g., dance teachers, martial arts teachers) will be trained in how to:
*identify students at risk for mental health issues
*counsel students in distress, and
*refer students to mental health professionals as needed.
This training will be based on an existing, research-backed suicide prevention program called QPR (Question, Persuade, Refer). They will also be trained in culturally-relevant areas, such as how to:
*talk to parents about cultural or religious taboos related to suicide
*reduce academic pressure on students, and
*address the ways in which religion/spirituality can be used to either help or hinder students' mental health.
This project is being conducted as a part of my dissertation research in pursuit of my Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) degree in Clinical-School Psychology at Pace University, NYC. My school is unable to provide funding to support my project.
I have applied for funding from the American Psychological Association, but even if I do receive this funding, it will be a minimal amount ($100). I plan on applying to larger scholarships, awards, and grants, but the due dates for applying to the funding I am interested in is much later in the year, after summer 2019 (when I plan on conducting this study).
I am asking for your monetary support for the following necessary items towards this project's success, as I plan on traveling to Guyana this summer (July/August) to conduct the school training:
*AIRFARE FOR MYSELF AND ONE RESEARCH ASSISTANT: $2000
*GROUND TRANSPORTATION: $280
*QPR TRAINING CERTIFICATION FEES: $500
*FOOD & ACCOMMODATIONS: $450
*COURSE MATERIALS FOR PARTICIPANTS: $150
This project is a rare chance to directly impact Guyanese adolescents in the area of suicide prevention, and is significant for a few reasons. This project is:
*One of the only studies on school-based suicide prevention training in a non-US or European country
*The only study (to date) on the development of an evidence-based treatment in suicide prevention for Guyanese adolescents
*One of a handful of studies on culturally-adapted mental health treatments for youth in non-US or European countries
THANK YOU FOR YOUR HELP! I cannot wait to use the skills I have developed in graduate school and clinical training over the past few years to help youth in Guyana.
**Page, Saumweber, Hall, Crookston, & West, 2013
- Mahelia Bissassar
- Zeel Shah
- Shalini Ramachandran
- Michael Vitiello
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