Gov’t continues to prioritise mental health in Guyana

Mental Health and Well-Being conference begins
University students laud gov’t approach to mental health

Mental Health continues to be a global issue, exacerbated by the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. As such, the PPP/C Administration remains committed to strengthening the response to this dilemma.

In a demonstration of this commitment, the Ministry of Health, in collaboration with Colombia University, United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), and other partners, on Tuesday launched day one of the Second Annual Guyana Health and Mental Well-Being Conference.

Minister of Health, Dr. Frank Anthony, while delivering his keynote address, made reference to the recent passing of the Mental Health Protection and Promotion Bill and the Suicide Prevention Bill, active steps in the right direction to prioritise mental health in Guyana.

He also emphasised the importance of removing the stigma against mental health and said that it is necessary to decentralise the response so that the reach is greater. 

“We want to pivot the service so that in places where we are seeing suicide, we must be more responsive in those areas. We can’t have a unit operating out of Georgetown when the cases that we are seeing are in the regions.  We have to get persons out in the regions, and we have to decentralise the response to make sure that we are going to the places that are most affected,” the health minister expressed.

Dr Anthony noted that the ministry is taking an informed academic approach to combating mental illnesses and promoting mental health. Data compilation and analysis is only one of the tactics that will be utilised to identify key areas of improvement and allocate resources to provide interventions.

“Along with medication and cognitive behavioural therapy…we think this combination of methods would help us with reducing the suicide rate in Guyana. We have the numbers, and we are working on systems to make sure that we have better collection of data.”

Meanwhile, UNICEF Deputy Representative for Guyana and Suriname, Irfan Akhtar, emphasised the importance of creating awareness and established the nexus between making mental health a priority and achieving sustainable development goals.

He also pointed to the importance of access to mental health services and reducing the stigma, highlighting that it is a global problem that requires modern and realistic interventions.

The three-day conference invites members of the public and private sector representatives to be a part of the global discussion on the importance of mental health. Several attendees at Tuesday’s launch lauded the initiative to address the issue and foster sustainable interventions.

One such attendee was a student of the University of Guyana, Grace Corbin, who said that these measures being implemented will go a long way in reducing the high suicide rate.

She said, “I think it is a really excellent initiative, especially since we just experienced one of the most devastating pandemics. Focusing on mental health and helping our people to get better is very important.”

Another University student, Stacey Glenn, noted that the government is making headway in formulating strategies to combat mental health issues.

“We all know that the government can’t do it alone. As citizens, if we make it a priority for us, the government can only push and encourage us to do so, but they can’t do it alone,” she implored. Day one of the conference featured presentations from experts in the field of psychology, Professor Christina Hoven of the Guyana Well-Being (GWB) Study, as well as remarks from H.E. Mark Berman, Canadian High Commissioner; Professor Emanuel Cummings, University of Guyana; and Dr. William Adu-Krow on behalf of the GWB team.