October 24, 2016

A law unto themselves

Please allow me to make it clear from the beginning, when writing about a group or any collective, I am in no way suggesting that everyone within that group behaves the same way or is blighted by the same attitude. I am not claiming either that it is a majority of the group or collective that I am making reference to. It is more accurately described as a need to express my bitter disappointment and confusion as to the reasoning and continued allowance of the poor practices that are taking place in the daily lives of my communities.
There are Police officers representing the Government of Guyana who are quite simply a disgrace. For the institution charged with the responsibility of serving and protecting the public, the failures are extensive. Set aside the challenges of fighting crime and corruption, which is an insurmountable task for Police forces around the globe and begin with the most basic of human expectations.
Maybe it is a form of power drunkenness or a sub-culture that belongs to a secret faction, but the complete lack of courtesy, information sharing and sub-standard protocol that I have witnessed first-hand and been privy to through recounted venting of disgruntled family and friends, leaves us all astounded.
We are often left with a sense of disbelief when an arrogant, ill-trained, unmannerly representative detains you, often under ambiguous grounds they themselves are unable to substantiate. With so many people regularly committing blatant traffic offences under the noses of the officers, why do they choose to harass those of us innocently going about our business? There are certainly some evidenced reasons of bribe seeking, power trips, and ignorance.
When the average citizen is met with a rude, unlawful officer, we are still at their mercy if we want to avoid hours of time wasted in the station. The unclear laws that govern what power they actually possess allows them to abuse that power and the cavalier way that they approach interactions behaving as though they have rights way beyond their standing, really is alarming.
Each of us can appreciate that the take-home pay of a police officer is extremely modest and we are well aware of the challenging financial situation many face. However, when dealing with a person who has sworn to uphold the law unashamedly seeking to break that law by asking for a bribe, it is difficult to feel secure in the service. So many people do wholehearted pay to avoid inconvenience and being caught up in a court system that itself leaves so much to be desired.
More training is obviously needed; both initially and ongoing. No matter how much is currently being undertaken it is obviously lacking, as is the selection process and the standard of education set as entry requirement for new officers. To be a good, efficient officer requires a personality and attitude that is sorely absent in many of the present ones operating in the community.
There seems to be little accountability for the incompetence and ineffectiveness of their actions and energy and time is being wasted on targeted civilians who some believe will give financial reward, allow them to display illusions of grandeur or accept the venting of a bad attitude.
It is our responsibility to be better versed in the laws of Guyana and the government to make those laws accessible, clear and upheld. If we refuse to let poor treatment go unreported and find power in accurate knowledge of our rights, a change will be forced to come, however slowly.
We are entitled to be spoken to with respect, be offered clear and accurate information from the attending officers about the situation, alleged violation and procedure. We are also entitled to demand that officers are accountable for their actions and should be heard.
Officers should be proud to wear the uniform and view their position as what it is; a public service. The reputation of the force is seriously damaged and will take a long time, a lot of hard work, and a new outlook from all concerned.
The dishonest ones are tainting the genuine ones.
Police Officers are supposed to inspire trust, represent protection and instil feelings of safety. There are many out there who work hard to portray such an image, but unfortunately there are also many who are a far cry from that image in any way, shape or form.
As a developing country it is imperative that the backbone institutions like the Police Force employ the necessary changes that will allow that development.

Time to keep body image real

Body image is how you view your physical self, including whether you feel you are attractive and whether you believe that others like your looks. For many people, especially people in their early teens, body image can be closely linked to self-esteem, and the importance of positive self-esteem on mental health is of huge consequence.

Young girls in today’s society can be under tremendous pressure to fulfil the ideals of a media-induced perception of what beauty is. Despite a myriad of campaigns to shift that perception, young girls suffer from very low self-esteem, anxiety and depression when the stresses of being unable to meet, or struggling to maintain these often unrealistic and unhealthy bodies, become overwhelming.

These impressionable females are bombarded with countless media images of thin female models and actresses who look beautiful by many modern-day standards and they view them as role models, believing them to be happy and their lives to be perfect. When such an overwhelming percentage of girls’ clothing features body-hugging, midriff-baring styles most comfortably worn by the ultra-thin, it encourages girls to diet in order to be able to wear current fashion trends and fit in with their peers.

Attempts to emulate the countless media images they view can lead girls to employ drastic, unhealthy measures leading to mental health issues at least and these can become life-threatening at worst, with the onset of serious eating disorders. Most worrying is the age at which these perceptions are being formed: as young as five years old and by the time most girls reach their teens, they’ve consumed years’ worth of idealistic messages about what a female body should look like, unfortunately not just from the media.

Mothers are unwittingly supporting the unrealistic images and adding to the pressures by often openly obsessing about their own weight, introducing vocabulary into the home about diets and getting fat, and talking of avoiding eating.

Girls absorb what their mothers say about bodies: their own, their daughters, those of celebrities and strangers. They notice when their mothers diet constantly or exercise fanatically. If they make derogatory comments about their own appearance, this can affect their daughters’ own perceptions. Even though it is fairly common knowledge, little attention is paid to the fact the images are so often enhanced and airbrushed. Girls can get caught up in an impossible effort to achieve and maintain an unhealthy body shape, hairstyles and made-up faces, at great financial and emotional cost.

When high-profile celebrities take up the mantle to change the ideals, the effects can be really powerful. Alicia Keys’ “no make-up” campaign is an extremely inspiring movement in that she has been thoughtful and brave enough to be the kind of role model young girls need right now. Her statement is that it is not necessary to cover up your true self with make-up and that you should not feel pressurised to conform to fit the unrealistic standards that have been set for young girls and women. The message includes being more concerned with what is on the inside of a person and highlights the need to shift focus from body image.

Closer to home, there is much parents can do to encourage a healthier sense of self for our young females. Parents’ energy can be best spent getting their daughters to look at and think critically about the unrealistic way the media portrays girls and women. When parents can help their daughters recognise how unrealistic these images are – airbrushed to slim stomachs and thighs and hide blemishes – girls may begin to feel better about the way they look. Plastic surgery, implants, fake hair, copious amounts of make-up are all a women’s prerogative, but we should be ensuring that a strong sense of self-worth does not rely upon these things.

We need to be teaching our daughters that a healthy body, one that has regular, safe exercise and consumes all types of food for a healthy balanced diet, is the only type of body image they need concern themselves with. They need to know that they are free to wear make-up if they choose, but they should not feel so pressured, they are afraid to leave the house without it.

The media no doubt will continue its portrayal of the perfect body image, but at some point, intelligent young ladies everywhere will begin to realise that those bodies being portrayed are very rarely real and that we all come in different shapes and sizes and our worth has absolutely nothing to do with that shape or size. We have to work on dispelling the myths that are causing our young people such anxiety and support building a society that places value on the important things in life.

Mental Health Week

By: Lorraine Ince-Carvalhal

Saturday saw the end of Mental Health Week and as usual when an awareness event celebrates a day, week or month, there is always a risk that the drive behind it lasts only as long as the spotlight is turned towards it. Those organisations pushing for development the year round, are often left with unfilled promises and well-thought-out plans that fail to reach fruition.
Despite this too often being the case, any chance to bring awareness about an important subject is to be utilised to its maximum potential; especially when the future of a nation is to be significantly affected by it.
According to WHO (World Health Organisation), mental health is “a state of wellbeing in which the individual realises his or her own abilities can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community” and estimates that at least one in four people will suffer one or more mental health disorders in a lifetime.
We all have the potential for suffering from mental health problems, regardless of age, gender, financial standing, or ethnicity. Many factors can increase the likelihood of us experiencing issues but poor mental health has no prejudice.
It may seem that mental health has become a buzzword and yes, people are talking about it, the government are behind developments and awareness is growing, but what does poor mental health really look like? Those who suffer from mental health disorders will find it challenging to maintain productivity or contribute to the community, but more importantly, it will affect their day-to-day lives closer to home.
For example, one of the most common types of disorders is a group of anxiety disorders that include panic disorder, phobias, obsessive compulsive disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder. All of these have an adverse effect on day-to-day lives because they limit and dictate behaviour regardless of what a person wants to do. The fear they live with disrupts their potential for stability and happiness and they can be constantly or frequently on edge.
Other types of ailments are mood disorders; mild or major depression and bipolar. These affect people in a variety of ways: losing interest in activities, prolonged periods of sadness, lack of motivation, and feelings of despair. In the case of bipolar, the sufferer oscillates from episodes of euphoria (mania) and depression (despair).
Another serious condition is Schizophrenia. The sufferer has thoughts that appear fragmented and finds it hard to process information. They hallucinate, can be delusional and can withdraw into their own world. This condition can pose danger to both the sufferer and those they come into contact with, and obviously affect their day-to-day life and reality.
Mental health is a level of psychological wellbeing; just as physical health relates to our physical wellbeing. The difference is that as a nation we seem to be able to accept that we need help to maintain our physical health and most of us will willingly visit the doctor, accept treatment when necessary and even take measures to prevent deterioration. Contrarily, the stigma attached to mental health prevents so many from reaching out for help, working to prevent poor mental health, or even accepting there is problem.
Here in Guyana there are added factors contributing to the prevention of people receiving treatment, including the absence of qualified professionals, the uneven distribution of those limited resources, ignorance, a self-reliance culture and religious beliefs. This exasperates the problem as studies show that earlier the intervention the greater the reduction in the symptoms the individual experiences, the faster the recovery and return to functionality and the lower the rates of recurrence.
The way forward is to continue working towards changing the cultural of dismissing mental health issues, encouraging a new attitude to recognise issues are not weakness, educating people about the disorders, and encouraging them to seek help. It has already been determined that preventive, community-based care is better suited to treat people with mental health issues rather than an over-reliance on psychiatric doctors, so efforts need to be made to train nurses and community healthcare workers to respond to emotional and psychological concerns.
Similarly, although having a counsellor in every school is a great goal, mentors would provide broader, preventive care that would be more beneficial, quicker to implement and easier to resource. This would allow intervention and prevention earlier in the life cycle.
Don’t let this week’s mental health awareness pass without note. Invest in maintaining your own mental health by taking time out to understand yourself, seek ways to enjoy a healthy state of mind, and ask for help if ever you need it.

The unfortunate reality of grieving

Dealing with the loss of a loved one is unfortunately something that many of us inevitably will experience. The support networks that rally shortly after the loss can be a life-line but that support can only do so much for so long.
When the door closes after the last funeral guest has left no matter how you have been coping thus far, there can be an overwhelming sense of finality and as support diminishes, coping with loss can seem insurmountable.
Up until that point, there has most likely been a focus on the preparations for the funeral; one of the key functions of this age old tradition. In fact, when we look at the purpose behind this ritual it is clear to see just how much of a useful grieving process a funeral is. During the first moments of learning of the death of a loved one the shock and numbness that may be experienced can leave a person in a daze and only the necessity of making arrangements can bring their focus back.
Having the opportunity to express the love and respect felt for the lost person in the form of a service and a final farewell serves to bring the reality of the loss home; the first step of the grieving process. The dignified and respectful care that can be shown is a last tribute that can be offered to demonstrate the depth of feeling we have allows an expression of love.
Of equal importance is the transition of taking grief from the inside and expressing it on the outside through mourning and the sharing of grief amongst family and friends. Often seeing the love, affection and sentiment that others feel can provide a great support network and a sense of togetherness, pride and kindred spirit.
However, the support network that has been in place up to this point can diminish rapidly as people return to their lives and it can be a lonely and difficult time for those closest to the person who has passed. Now the real grieving process may kick in.
It is generally recognised that despite each individual’s grief taking its own pattern, there are stages that most people go through. These are firstly accepting the reality of the loss, secondly experiencing the pain of grief before adjusting to life without the person who has passed away and finally putting less emotional energy into grieving and moving on by choosing to focus energy into something new.
These stages can over lap and become jumbled as grievers try to find their way through and the duration of moving through the stages differs from person to person. During which time feelings of overwhelming sadness, crying, tiredness and exhaustion, along with anger and guilt can consume.
The thing to remember if you are grieving is that the feelings you are experiencing are normal. Each of us copes in our own way and good days and bad days can be mixed up. A very fitting description is that one day you may feel you are standing in the sea with the water up to your shins and you feel able to cope and then suddenly a huge wave comes along and knocks you off your feet. The wave’s analogy is extremely apt as the feelings can often feel as though they come in waves.
Acceptance can be a very difficult stage as it means having to begin a very painful process. However the sooner we are able to accept, the sooner we can begin the necessary journey. Moving on can feel like a betrayal, but consider that the lost person would more than likely want the best for you and want to see you enjoying life again. Feeling angry is a natural reaction, whether its anger that the loved one has been taken or anger at ourselves if we are left feeling guilty for all the things we which we had said, done or shown that we will never be able to do now.
The finality of death is difficult to come to terms with but its inevitability means it is a part of life for all of us. Most of us have been through the grieving process and no matter how well we cope or how long it has been, the pain never quite dissipates. What we cannot change we have to learn to accept no matter how hard. Allow the process to unfold. Do not try to rush it but equally try not to dwell in it. It is a natural process, a necessary process; experience it with the memory of your loved one burning bright.

How much do you think you are worth?

Forget your financial standing and think about your worth as a human being. We all assess ourselves and those around us using our own perceptions and criteria, and the worth we place in ourselves has varying degrees of effect.
Self-esteem relates to how much a person values themselves, the building of which begins in early childhood and can have a huge impact on our happiness. It can change from day to day or from year to year, fluctuating as children grow, being fine-tuned because it is affected by experiences and new perceptions.
Once people reach adulthood, it is harder to make changes to how they see and define themselves, so it helps to be aware of the signs of both healthy and unhealthy self-esteem as early as possible.
Accordingly, there is wisdom in thinking about developing and promoting self-esteem during early childhood. The concept of success following effort and persistence starts early; as children try, fail, try again, fail again, and then finally succeed, they develop ideas about their own capabilities. At the same time, self-concept based on interactions with other people is being created. Thus parental involvement is key to helping the formation of accurate, healthy self-perceptions.
It is important for parents to identify children’s irrational beliefs about themselves, whether they’re about perfection, attractiveness, ability, or anything else. Helping them to set more accurate standards and be more realistic in evaluating themselves will help them have a healthy self-concept. The danger of inaccurate perceptions of self is that they can take root and dangerously become someone’s reality.
There are signs to help parents understand what level of self-esteem a child has. Children with healthy self-esteem tend to enjoy interacting with others and are comfortable in social settings. They are balanced in their enjoyment of group activities and independent pursuits. Knowing their strengths and weaknesses, and accepting them allows them to work toward finding solutions and voice dissatisfaction without disparaging themselves or others when challenges arise.
Children with low self-esteem may not want to try new things and may speak negatively about themselves. They may also exhibit a low tolerance for frustration, giving up easily or waiting for somebody else to take over what they find difficult tasks, in turn stifling their belief that they are capable of solving problems. Consequently, challenges become major sources of anxiety. Overt self-criticism and regular disappointment in themselves follow. If a child sees temporary setbacks as permanent, intolerable conditions they become at risk of stress and mental health problems.
If we promote healthy self-esteem by showing encouragement and enjoyment in a variety of areas rather than focusing on one specific area, for example, educational success, it can avoid a child unable to achieve in one area feeling of little worth. Allowing them to see the value of all aspects of life and interactions gives them more room to find their area of celebration.
Praising a child not only for a job well done, but more significantly for effort teaches them that the way we approach situations and the attitude we employ holds importance and not just the end result; fostering feelings of satisfaction with effort over outcome.
Coupled with the promotion that children are unique, have varying areas of strengths and weakness and different levels of capability, encourages them to understand themselves and accept we all have limitations on our abilities in different areas, thus supporting adversity following any disappointments about their competences.
Children who feel unsafe or are abused at home are at greatest risk for developing poor self-esteem, feelings of helplessness and depression. It is imperative that they understand that the practice of talking to a trusted adult about problems or worries that are too much for a child to handle alone may reduce feelings of inadequacy and allow them to understand they are not always supposed to be in control; it is not weak to ask for help.
Parental love helps boost a child’s self-esteem. Physical affection, and declaration of parental pride, when they put effort towards or try something at which they previously failed, supports perseverance. Honest, unexaggerated praise is crucial to avoid nurturing an inflated sense of self that may result in practices of putting others down or to experiences of feelings of grandeur.
Taking responsibility and pride in who you are as an adult is a sure sign of healthy self-esteem and the greatest gift parents can give to their child. Nurture your own self-esteem and they will have a worthy role model.

Where do we start with literacy?

By: Lorraine Ince-Carvalhal

 As education month comes to a close, I sincerely hope that the new initiatives proposed and focused on areas of improvement do not lose momentum and are not just lip service to the month. Despite the awareness of the need and identification of improvement areas, without continued motivation to application and implementation, we could be in danger of allowing the concerns to take a downward spiral as the next generation falls a little lower than the present one.

The highlighting of literacy needs is one of the most important concerns, as without literacy, it is difficult for the country and its citizens to make further development. While it is clear that the emphasis on literacy needs to start at the beginning of a child’s life because research has shown that children who struggle with literacy will become youth and adults who struggle with literacy, the problem is that these same struggling adults are parents to those children in desperate need of literacy support. Surely the consideration here is that before we can hope to be successful in tackling the falling literacy rates in children, we need to intervene and develop the literacy rates of adults.

During the recognition of International Literacy Day, Minister of Education, Dr Rupert Roopnaraine pointed out that the definition of literacy included the ability to identify, understand, interpret and create… using written materials. This goes far beyond the boundaries of learning how to read and write, and towards a person’s capacity to apply those skills to successfully connect, understand and identify the complexities of the world around them. Despite Guyana previously boasting high literacy rates, by this definition it is clear that those rates do not reflect the status of the many adults in this country. How can they hope to support and teach the next generation if they themselves are struggling with such skills?

Study after study shows that families who read together can help children boost their vocabulary and school performance and to this end, parents are being encouraged to read with their children, discuss homework and encourage learning. Yet large numbers of parents are literally unable to do so. How sad it is that so many of our parents do not get to enjoy reading their child a bedtime story, such a rich pastime that many of us take for granted. How sad it is that by the age of four, a child of a low literate parent will have heard 32 million fewer words than a child of a literate parent.

Schooling comes after the most influential part of a child’s development. A parent truly is the first teacher to a child and if they are unable to communicate the importance of literacy development and support that development, then a child is starting at a disadvantage when they enter the classroom. The challenge to build a strong education on an unstable foundation usually leads to that child attaining low educational standards and then we fall into a vicious cycle that perpetuates itself.

The power of language and the ability to use it as an expression is an invaluable tool in every area of life, from school to work, in relationships and all other forma of communications. Learning to read is of course the basis of literacy, but it is also important that time is taken to build understanding and encourage critical thinking both in the home and in the classroom. Without these skills, being able to read and write still has limitations.

There is an expectation that if we pour a certain amount of dollars into this generation’s education, we will get better results, but if we do nothing to address the households they are coming from, this expectation may not be realised. Should there not be more significant investment in this country to help improve adult literacy? Although the challenge is immense, the aim should be to make adult literacy classes easily accessible. Programmes need to be more effective and easy to implement with providers trained to deliver in a sensitive manner and participators need to be encouraged to complete courses with incentives, recognition and without stigma. In an effort to reach the standard of literacy that the Education Ministry is so appropriately aiming for, the input needs to span both generations and continue to do so until the cycle is broken.


We are all afraid of something, and rightly so; there are many good reasons to be afraid. We all have diverse reasons and different ways of coping with our fears, but what happens when that fear is irrational and begins to control your life? That is when you most likely have a phobia.
A phobia is a type of anxiety disorder; a strong, overwhelming and unreasonable fear of an object or situation that provokes anxiety and avoidance, despite posing no real danger. This is unlike our short-lived day to day fears – it is long lasting and causes intense physical and psychological reactions which can affect the ability to function normally.
Phobias are divided into three main categories; specific, social and agro (fear of open spaces). A specific phobia involves an irrational, persistent fear of a specific object or situation not proportional to the actual risk. This includes a fear of situations, nature, animals or insects, blood, injections or other phobias such as clowns. Most of us know someone who is afraid of spiders!
A social phobia is much more than just shyness. This involves a combination of extreme self-consciousness and a fear of public scrutiny or humiliation. In social situations, the person fears being rejected or negatively evaluated or fears offending others. This may not be evident to many people as it may not be openly discussed by the sufferer.
Agoraphobia is a fear of an actual or anticipated situation, such as using public transportation, being in open or enclosed spaces, standing in line or being in a crowd, or being outside the home alone. Anxiety is caused by feeling unable to escape if intense anxiety develops. This may be so severe that some people are unable to leave home.
Any of these can lead to feelings of uncontrollable panic, terror or dread when you’re exposed to the source of the fear, so much so that a person may do everything possible to avoid it. The anxiety manifests itself into the inability to function. The reactions can be so strong that they produce physical as well as psychological reactions; sweating, rapid heartbeat, difficulty breathing and extreme panic.
Often, suffers acknowledge that the fears are unreasonable or exaggerated but feel powerless to control them, which in turn increases the anxiety. It can be extremely difficult for others around to understand and it can be almost impossible for a sufferer to give a viable explanation for their behaviour.
Phobias do not have a single cause, but there are a number of associated factors. It may be related to a particular incident or trauma, or may be a learned response that a person develops early in life from a parent or sibling. Genetics may play a role as studies have shown there’s evidence to suggest that some people are born with a tendency to be more anxious than others.
Childhood fears, such as fear of the dark, of monsters or of being left alone, are common, and most children outgrow them. But if a child has a persistent, excessive fear that is limiting their ability to function in daily lifewhich may present in tantrums, crying and clinginess, intervention is crucial. As parents you can help by talking openly about fears and not trivialising the problem or belittling your child for being afraid. Instead, let your child know that you’re there to listen and to help.
Ultimately, avoid reinforcing phobias. Look for and create opportunities to help children overcome their fears by modelling positive behaviour, either in specific areas where you are aware of their fear or in other’s when a more general fear can be used as an example. Because children learn by watching, you can demonstrate how to respond when confronted by something your child fears. If this does not help, it may be necessary to seek professional support.
A person will sometimes choose to live with a phobia, taking great care to avoid the object or situation they’re afraid of. However, if you have a phobia, continually trying to avoid what you’re afraid of will only serve to make the situation worse. Almost all phobias can be successfully treated and cured. Mild ones can be treated through gradual exposure to the object, animal, place or situation that causes fear and anxiety. In more serious cases, considerations of psychological help are advised, especially if you have children, as repeatedly seeing someone else’s phobic reaction can trigger a phobia in children and may be the reason many adults are suffering right now.

Young people and self-harm


There are many issues and ailments that plague today’s society and many of those occurrences are happening under the radar. There are various institutions that will go to great lengths to play down or cover up anything that may be perceived as untoward happenings in an effort to appear respectable, but the truth is, the problems that young people are facing here in Guyana and the world over are unfortunately not just a passing fad and they will not go away if ignored.

When you witness an institution; namely schools, bringing in intervention or education about what may be a taboo subject, it is not to say they are experiencing it more than any other, it is to say they care more about providing their students with the support they need than they do about their reputation. I for one applaud them and implore that they make it a regular occurrence.

If we are honest, most parents or family members have heard stories of certain goings on in most of our schools. Maybe it is not talked about openly or dealt with accordingly but we know it’s there. The point is, young people from all walks of life experience difficulties and they are searching their souls for a way forward, a way to cope or a way to fit in. With this can come issues and problems. Poor judgment, experimentation and misunderstanding naturally lead them to make mistakes that can adversely affect them and their development.

It is not a weakness to address issues that your students present. We are well aware that money and prestige do not eliminate ill-informed choices and poor behaviour. The same problems that face the teenager travelling on a bus to a low achieving school face the teenager in an expensive car on his way to a high achieving private school. If we take our responsibility as parents, carers and teachers seriously, the bottom line is to identify, educate and reduce the problems and the pain our children will feel no matter how it affects reputation or standing.

One issue that has been recognised for a long time now but seems to have moved out of what has been described as its “fad stage” is self-harm. People harm themselves in many ways, including cutting or burning, pulling out hair, hitting their bodies against something, drinking heavily or taking excessive amounts of drugs. People of all ages, gender, religious beliefs and culture self-harm. It reflects an inability to cope with emotional pressure – not poor parenting or schooling.

There are many reasons why people self-harm and the meaning for each person is unique but it is very often a way of dealing with very difficult thoughts and feelings and are often kept secret. This makes it extremely difficult to accurately formulate statistics regarding the practice and more importantly, to talk to as many young people as possible about the dangers, other ways of expressing themselves and alternative coping mechanisms.

There are however, some young people who do not keep it quiet; they can become involved in groups, searching for understanding and they expose the practice to be like others, to be recognised and to feel a sense of belonging. Either way, this cannot be dismissed as a fad and needs tackling. It needs to be recognised that self-harm is used as a coping strategy towards any emotional burden or upset they may be experiencing or have experienced in the past. It is, generally, not a sign of suicidal tendencies but that is not to say that people who self-harm do not go on to have suicidal thoughts or behaviour. More likely it is used to turn emotional pain into physical pain so it is was easier to cope with and brings a sense of temporary relief to the sufferer.

Schools are the perfect forum to reach mass amounts of young people and with support, they should strive to make mental health intervention and prevention part of their curriculum. Talking about issues and educating both students and teachers can greatly reduce the incidents and can also open communications for those struggling to cope. Educating parents to look for danger signs and ways of supporting their children will also go a long way in dealing with this issue.

It is almost impossible to eliminate the stresses and apprehensions the uncertainties and worries from life. Young people are bombarded with so many issues these days they can be confused and scared. We need to offer them successful ways of coping with those difficulties, and we need to raise our own levels of understanding to find successful ways to do this.




Then we look back on our lives, no matter how young or old, depending on how lucky we are, we will have experienced the beauty of friendship and all that we are will be interlaced with those special people in our lives who we met by chance and stayed with by choice. It is said that no friendship is an accident and that surely is the truth as two people who share the true relationship that is friendship may meet by chance but they build something so strong that it cannot be a coincidence.

Of course, along the way there will have been people we called friends even though we knew they were not, and there will have also been people we thought were friends, then found were not. The kind of friendship that I am referring to is in the true sense of the word.

It is the relationship you can rely on for support, joy and even occasional trouble! But the point is – you can rely on it. True friends never leave your life no matter where they go, how much time passes between conversations, or how long you do not see each other. It does not matter how often you see each other either; the substance is in how much you care and that you are willing to be there when needed.

Friendship, like love, can blossom between two very different people; different ages, lifestyles and backgrounds. The common ground is the mutual affection and regard for each other. Whether built over a lifetime or through an immediate sense of closeness, the benefits of being appreciated for all that you are and all that you are not, of feeling comfortable and able to express yourself without limits and of being supported under any circumstance, can give a person a real feeling of security not always found in other types of relationships.

Being understood without being judged is a rare experience but a friend will offer this naturally. There is no competition between you, only best wishes and genuine goodwill. The honesty with which a friend can tell you something is possible because you both know that the intention is always wanting what’s best for you and so can only be speaking for the right reasons. They can be relied on for advice, whether good or misguided, because your best interests are at the heart of anything they do.

The laughter and love along with the embarrassments shared with a friend create feelings of togetherness and gives the confidence that never having to feel alone brings. Experiencing joys and sorrows with another who understands and feels your emotions forms an almost indestructible bond. The memories created, the lives lived and supported and the stories shared, are the backbone of friendships and they are relived, re-loved and revived in each other’s daily thoughts.

We all need encouragement at some time in our lives and a good friend will always be sure to offer some, along with a large boost to our confidence and self-esteem. By listening and communicating openly with each other, friends make us feel valued and needed. When we reciprocate, we also experience those emotions. The two-way street that is friendship ensures the benefits continually flow both ways.

Having someone pick up on your moods without conversation and knowing just what you need to feel better, whether that is talking or being quiet, being around or left alone, being cheered up or allowed to cry, is how in tune friends are. Often they know what we need even more than we do!

If you are one of the fortunate ones who has experienced true friendship, you probably tell each other often how thankful you are for each other. Still, take time out to let them know again. If you have not been so lucky in finding true friendship, it may still come to pass.

We are relational beings and no matter how many loners there are out there, no matter how many have been stung by a defective friendship in the past and are afraid to let anyone get too close, consider that having a friend to lean on and being that friend to someone else is an important part of our emotional wellbeing. Remember, you have to be a true friend to have the benefit of a true friend.


Back to school

As parents are undergoing last-minute checks to ensure they have all the items needed to send their children back to school, it is an ideal time to pause and reflect on how fortunate we are to have such access to an education.
There is no shying away from the fact there is still much to do within the education system here, but appreciating how far the system has come and all it is planning to achieve, needs positively acknowledging.
With over 70 million children around the globe having very limited or no access to a primary education, the picture becomes clearer that although many other countries have more advanced, efficient education systems, there are millions of children longing to have the opportunities that are afforded our children here in Guyana.
While many of those developing countries continue to be plagued with the same difficulties poverty brings to all its hosts, we are fortunate enough to be in a position where schools and teachers are available even in the hinterlands. Let all of us ensure we play our part in utilising what we do have on offer.
Parents have a moral and legal duty to ensure attendance at school. Children should not be absent due to having to look after younger siblings, or going out to work. While it has to be understood this is sometimes necessary for the survival of a family, it should not be a long-term arrangement and every effort ought to be made to make effective plans to change the situation.
It is a child’s right to attend school and our responsibility that they are afforded that right. No matter what level of literacy a parent has, there are many ways to support a child’s learning at home, from encouragement to creating space and time for homework. Just being interested and aware is often enough to inspire a child.
School can be such an influential part of a child’s life, impacting long beyond school days.
Teachers can have either a life changing effect or a stifling one. Hopefully any of those who have not been having a positive effect will have had time to reflect over the summer and be strong enough to critically analyse their reason for teaching and ensure their approach fits the purpose of their profession.
After all, the emphasis is on how well you can transfer information, encourage critical thinking and ignite a thirst and love of learning in your students. The discipline necessary to cultivate this should not lose its nurturing focus. Remember you are not just teaching academics, your job is considerably more complex.
Students be aware of the doors that will be open to you if you value your learning and don’t waste the opportunities you are being given.
Ensure you take full responsibility and play your own part on your educational journey. No excuses; take control of your own future by working to the best of your ability and give yourself every chance at success. Take full advantage of what is available whatever your capabilities so you reach your potential. Come prepared to learn. Don’t oppose your teachers at every opportunity; personalities do not always fit but you are in this together and both will benefit from the same outcome.
The scope for improvements is vast and resources, training and implementation are limited in too many areas in Guyana. Among the difficulties facing the country are: lack of financial resources affecting schooling materials, insufficient teacher training affecting the quality of teaching, oversized classes and those mixed with a wide range of ages and abilities making it difficult to challenge and pitch lessons at a level where all benefit.
Nevertheless, we should still be counting our blessings that within the public system the majority of our children have access to a reasonable form of education at least.
The focus now is on raising the standards within this sector and the sooner the better. Many of our young people are not accessing what they should be and for many reasons the system is failing them. However, the point is the system is in place and little by little it has the potential to improve and become more efficient. Of course we all continue to hope that those others around the world will soon have access too.