December 14, 2017

“Personal experiences led to my activism” says budding doctor

By Lakhram Bhagirat

As cliché as it sounds the famous words of Mahatma Gandhi, “Be the change you want to see,” is the driving force behind everything that young Shazam Somwar does to make his mark and leave behind a legacy that would do his generation proud. Shazam is a 21-year-old medical student of the Greenheart Medical University, but what makes him exceptional is his drive to help others and address the issues that affect them.
Hailing from Kilcoy, Corentyne, he is the eldest of three children from a family of mechanics. Speaking with Sunday Magazine, Shazam explained that he was the first to venture out of the family business to pursue his passion of healing others through medicine.

Activist Shazam Somwar

“I am a humanitarian at heart, passionate about volunteering; suicide prevention is something I am passionate about, and I am an advocate. I am someone very down to earth, someone who you could always talk to and once I see a smile on someone’s face, I am happy,” Shazam said when asked to describe himself.
In 2014, Shazam started a local organisation called the Suicide Prevention Awareness Campaign (SPAC) to address the suicide epidemic that has been plaguing the Region in which he resided. Following the launch of his organisation, the young leader held walks to raise awareness, held talks with students, and posted posters throughout the Region to address the ill of suicide.
Everybody has an opinion when it comes to the life of someone else, but they do not know what that person is going through and this is what led to the activism. Shazam reveals that his activism comes from a place deep within himself, a place he often tries to not explore because of the darkness that lives there. You see he has had up-close and personal encounters with suicide and attempted suicide.
Shying away from his personal experiences, he said that he has had more than one friend who committed suicide and knows several persons who have attempted to do the same. For him, those persons displayed little or no sign that would have indicated that they were contemplating such a decision.
“I have partnered with some schools where we had in-school sessions, letting them know who suicide affects and the consequences and what will their loved ones face after they are gone along with the signs to look for when someone is contemplating suicide,” he told the Sunday Magazine.

Shazam during one of the numerous medical outreaches in which he volunteered

SPAC has been created to provide a safe space for persons to relate their stories and be guided along the path to receiving the help they need. The organisation has an active Facebook page, and Shazam is prepared to provide assistance to anyone who may need it.
“Because of the demands of my studies, the organisation is on a standstill right now. I am planning to officially relaunch it early next year, since I would have a bit of a break in my studies. For the relaunch, I am already in the process of initiating an aggressive awareness campaign and would soon be filming a short video to educate those about the consequences of suicide.”
Shazam, who is also inspired by his late grandfather, explains that the relaunching of his organisation would not only span the nation but there are overseas partners waiting to join.
Apart from tackling the scourge of suicide, the medical student enjoys volunteering for various non-profit organisations and contributing to the development of his community.
Guyana’s suicide rate is an alarming 44.2 cases per 100,000 persons when the global average is 16 per 100,000 people. Since 2012, suicide has been the leading cause of death in persons between the ages of 16 and 44. Females attempted suicide more than males in a ratio of 3:1. Indo-Guyanese have accounted for 50 per cent of suicide deaths in the country while Afro-Guyanese have accounted for 26 per cent. These statistics are worrying for Guyana as well as the international community.
For the year 2017 so far, the Public Health Ministry recorded 59 cases of suicide while the Police recorded a staggering 92 cases. This clearly shows the Ministry’s inability to effectively monitor the number of suicide deaths and report accordingly.

One of the Boards of Hope

There are several organisations working to tackle the scourge of suicides. The Guyana Police Force has launched a “Suicide Helpline” as another initiative under the Force’s Social Crime Prevention programme. Persons desirous of accessing the services of the Guyana Inter-agency Suicide Prevention Hotline can contact 223-0001, 223-0009, 600-7896, 623-4444; Email: guyagency@yahoo.com, BBM PINS: 2BE55649, 2BE56020; Twitter: guyanaagency; WhatsApp: +592-600-7896, 592- 623-4444 or Facebook: Guyana Interagency Suicide Prevention Help Line.(Guyana Times Sunday Magazine)