Support Village Voice News With a Donation of Your Choice.
Corporal Terry Anthony Fraser, attached to the Training Corp of the Guyana Defence Force (GDF), died by suicide on Tuesday September 6. The deceased family is unsure whether he will be accorded full military rites given the GDF’s archaic Personnel Policy which states if the circumstances surrounding death is by suicide the soldier “will not be given a full military funeral but will have token representation from the unit to which they were members.”
36-year-old Fraser, who was from Belladrum, West Coast Berbice (WCB) was a 16-year veteran in the GDF. His mother, Ms. Cheryl Mingo, in conversations with Village Voice, said on the ill-fated day her son left home and later she received a message that he was in a pool of blood at the sea dam. When she arrived at the scene, Terry was being helped by public spirited villagers who assisted with getting him into a car to go to the Fort Wellington Hospital, WCB.
Recounting the experience whilst in the car to the hospital, the grieving mother said her son told her, “Mommy, you don’t know what I am going through. I have to die today.” He died in the car on the way to the hospital. “Terry was my last child, my back and head,” said Mingo.
Representatives of the army visited the bereaved home on Tuesday with promise to return. As of Saturday evening, the family has yet to hear from the GDF about the rites of the deceased.
On inquiry about the support system available to help cope with the tragedy, Mingo said that comes from family, loved ones in the community and the church. The army has not yet offered any assistance.
There is a global push to decriminalise suicide, including in the military, given knowledge has evolved on the circumstances that could influenced the decision to take one’s life. Through support systems, such as suicide hotlines, counselling and other social networks, society is helping those contemplating taking their lives to examine other ways of dealing with their emotional state. Families of these persons are also provided the bio-psychosocial support they need.
Even though suicide is criminalised in Guyana, the law is as dormant as the law on hanging where people are now being commuted to life imprisonment.
Last year the United Nations warned that the COVID-19 pandemic has become an increasing risk factor for suicide. Countries are therefore being urged to treat suicide as “an urgent public health problem and its prevention must be made a national priority.”
Sources told Village Voice the GDF should have long abandoned the outdated policy on suicide. They are also of the opinion Chief of Staff, Brigadier Gregory Bess, and Commander-in-Chief, President Irfaan Ali, should intervene not only to scrap the policy but also to ensure Fraser gets his full military rites. There are precedents of this.
In the late 1970s, Lance Corporal Linden Cavarah, of Belladrum, committed suicide by poison and was granted full military rites. In 1986/87, Private Kenrick Reynolds, from Weldaad WCB, jumped off the ammunition dump and died. He was granted full military rites.
The Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies advises that “Military personnel are more likely to make a suicide attempt or die by suicide if they are experiencing intense emotional pain. This could include depression and trauma (such as posttraumatic stress). Risk for suicide increases when military personnel experience both depression and posttraumatic stress together.”
If you are entertaining suicidal thoughts or know someone is, please call the hotline number (592) 600-7896.